The fate of the early adopters

Geoff Read at
Wed Sep 8 23:16:38 EST 1999

> Evidently  taxonomic procedures are 
> redundant or not known and the new ICZN code might as well not exist.   

To clarify - as regards the status of Echiura, or (the other recent one) 
Pogonophora, of course taxonomic procedures must  be followed when 
contemplating a reduction of a phylum to family-level in another phylum. The 
explanation should have enough detail of the history of the names (or 
provide sources for same) to help people understand how the decision was 
reached. Otherwise we have to take it on faith - and science and faith don't 
go together. Also, and crucially,  the  code tightly regulates priority of family 
names of which there are several in the echiurans.     

Subsequent to a 1997 molecular paper (the authority used by Miner et al. in 
their larval paper on Urechis caupo) Nishikawa examined the dates of family 
and genus names in Echiura. The relevant ones are as follows:       

Thalassema Pallas, 1774 
Echiurus Guerin-Meneville, 1831

Thalassematidae Forbes & Goodsir, 1841
Echiuridae Quatrefages, 1847

If he is correct, and if it is appropriate that Echiura be moved into Annelida, 
and if it is to be at family level - three big 'ifs', with the last as far as I know 
yet to be demonstrated -, then the family name for spoon worms / former 
echiurans is most likely the oldest, the Thalassematidae,  and  not the 

So there you go! An alternative viewpoint. Unless I've overlooked something 
obvious (entirely possible), or there is Commission decision stabilising on 
Echiuridae then  there is a case for arguing it is not the valid name.  My 
point is that the minutiae of genera and species names are constantly 
analysed. I would like to see the same detailed reasoning  accompanying 
major changes to the scope of family names proposed from any of the 
variously-derived  new classifications that we find so irresistible. Above the 
family level can be a degree of anarchy and creativity, and nobody minds 
much; at and below there is more constraint. When the two coincide we 
must be careful.    

Nishikawa, T. 1998. Nomenclatural remarks on the family-group names of 
the Phylum Echiura.— Proceedings of the Biological Society of 
Washington, 111:249-256  

  Geoff Read < at>

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