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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 16-12-2008, 04:57 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 662
The Heterotoma confusion

What's so confusing about this Bug (Heteroptera: Miridae)?

Heterotoma planicornis (Pallas, 1772)
Heterotoma merioptera (Scopoli, 1763) sensu Wagner

The other day I was somehow prompted again to look into the Heterotoma naming issue that I had encountered a few times before, but had also forgotten about again. In a neat discussion on insektenfotos.de (sorry, German) we more or less got to the bottom of it. Then I stumbled on the Heterotoma 'merioptera' on Alan Dale's bugsandweeds.co.uk and contacted him. He had a pow-wow with his Heteropterists-anonymous support group, and the verdict was that the British take on the matter is, well ... 'British' ( => handling the two names as synonyms - which incidentally concurs more or less with this)

So I've decided to cut and paste some English-language stuff here for your entertainment and also as a "note to self", because I'm quite certain that by this time next year I'll have forgotten most details and be as confused again as ever

Both our countries (GB & NL) only have the one species of Heterotoma depicted above. It is currently often addressed as Heterotoma planicornis (Pallas, 1772) and, at least in Britain it seems, the name Heterotoma merioptera (Scopoli, 1763) is given as a full synonym. This, in itself, is peculiar already as the Scopoli version is clearly the older one of the two

So, whazzup?

This species has been known for the longest time as Heterotoma merioptera (Scopoli, 1763) as this was assumed to be identical to H. planicornis (Pallas, 1772) and hence the older name prevailed.

In 1950 however Wagner identified the 'new' species Capsus (Heterotoma) dalmatinus, which should now probaly read "Heterotoma dalmatina (Wagner, 1950)", in about the same region that Scopoli had been working in 1763. This led Tamanini in his revision of the genus (Tamanini, 1962) to assume that Scopoli must have actually described the species identified by Wagner, as the other species was never found in that region. So, he renamed the western European species (then still known as H. merioptera) to H. planicornis and Wagner's H. dalmatinum/dalmatinus/dalmatina/dalmawhatever to H. merioptera (or, well ... meriopterum at the time ... but that's beside the point really ).

Wagner did not agree, arguing that - as Scopoli's type material had been lost - there was no way of proving what species Scopoli had been looking at (the description was insufficient too help any) and that the other species was found in neighbouring regions so (maybe possibly) Scopoli could have been looking at that one and thus, following the rules of ICAN his name/description should be the one used for the 'new' species. By the book, he was probably correct in that too, even if it is very, very unlikely that Scopoli would have been looking at anything else than Wagner's Heterotoma in 1763.

Anyway, Wagner maintained this view all his life, and made a point of promoting it wherever he could (such as in the authorative Faune de France (Vol.67), so for a long time there were two sets of names around:

Tamanini's version:
- Western species: Heterotoma planicornis (Pallas, 1772)
- Eastern species: Heterotoma merioptera (Scopoli, 1763)

Wagner's version:
- Western species: Heterotoma merioptera (Scopoli, 1763)
- Eastern species: Heterotoma dalmatina (Wagner, 1950)

Note how the name Heterotoma merioptera (Scopoli, 1763) is used in both versions, but for different animals.

Note: I'm not quite sure about the parenthesis in the "Heterotoma dalmatina (Wagner, 1950)" (!) Think they should be there as he originally described it in the genus Capsus (as Capsus (Heterotoma) dalmatinus), but as it seems the whole subgenus (Heterotoma) was lifted (back!) out later I'm not quite sure how that affects the parenthesis usage.

So, to avoid confusion about the 'merioptera' name it would probably be best to address the different animals as:

The Western European (and British) species:
- Heterotoma planicornis (Pallas, 1772)
or
- Heterotoma merioptera (Scopoli, 1763) sensu Wagner

The Eastern European species:
- Heterotoma merioptera (Scopoli, 1763) sensu Tamanini
or
- Heterotoma dalmatina (Wagner, 1950)

Most modern authors, such as the recent and authorative "Catalogue of the Heteroptera of the Palaearctic Region" (Aukema & Rieger eds.), the Fauna Europaea database, etc, etc, seem to have chosen - rightly or wrongly so - to follow Tamanini, making H. planicornis and H. merioptera not synonymous. In that view the name H. merioptera has been used erroneously for "our" species for a long time in many fine references, but technically speaking, that does not a synonym make.

So, if all this is correct (and to the best I could find it looks that way) it seems a bit peculiar to call the beast planicornis and maintain merioptera as an (even equally valid?) synonym. If you do, and thus in fact decide to follow Wagner (which is fine of course btw), the valid name should be H. merioptera, with indeed the junior synonym H. planicornis (as in Wagner's view the two are synonymous).

But if a choice is made to follow Tamanini (and the contemporary authors) and call the beast H. planicornis, then listing H. merioptera as a synonym (just like that, without the "sensu Wagner" thingy), is well, .... British ... ???

*Duck*
Arp

Refs:
  • Scopoli, J. A. (1763) Entomologia Carniolica, exhibens Insecta Carnioliae indigena et distributa in ordines, genera, species, varietates methodo Linneana. Vindobonae/Wien: Typis Ioannis Thomae Trattner. => Original description for Cimex meriopterum.
  • Pallas, P. S. (1772) Spicilegia Zoologica. Vol.9: pp:1-86. Berolini/Berlin: Lange. => Original description for Cimex planicornis
  • Le Peletier, A.L.M.; Serville, J.G.A. (1825) Les Insectes in Encyclopedie methodique. Vol.10, pp.321-326. Paris: ? => Original description for genus Heterotoma.
  • Wagner, E. (1950) Capsus (Heterotoma) dalmatinus n. sp., eine neue Hemipteren Art aus Dalmatien. in Wiener Entomologische Rundschau 2: 1--6 (PDF).
  • Tamanini, L. (1962) Osservazioni sul valore specifico e sulla distribuzione dell'Heterotoma meriopterum (Scopoli) e dell' H. planicornis (Pallas) Hemiptera Heteroptera, Miridae). in Atti dell'Accademia Roveretana degli Agiati, Ser.6/2, pp:135-14.
  • Wagner, Eduard (1968) Die Gattung Heterotoma Lepeletier & Serville, 1825 (Synonym Acroderrhis Bergroth, 1914)(Heteroptera, Miridae) in Notulae Entomologicae XLVIII. Hamburg (PDF)

Last edited by Pudding4brains; 16-12-2008 at 04:59 AM.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 16-12-2008, 10:10 AM
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Re: The Heterotoma confusion

I for one find this sort of stuff fascinating, even if I had no idea there was an issue with this name!

Behind each scientific name, and particularly each naming controversy, there's a history of recording, making discoveries, personal ambition, rivalries etc. Furthermore its interesting to see that the naturalists of the 18th century would get short shrift on WAB today!

Perhaps you should apply to the ICZN (International Committee of Zoological Nomenclature) for the conservation of H. merioptera as meaning the species in Western Europe.

This sort of problem should be sorted out by defining types: but many old descriptions don't have designated types (or they've been lost).

Do you think Wagner & Taminini were good mates?

posch
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Old 16-12-2008, 10:56 AM
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Re: The Heterotoma confusion

Hi Posch,

Quote:
Originally Posted by poschiavanus View Post
I for one find this sort of stuff fascinating
Yes, me too ... it's sometimes just a bit of a puzzle to figure out where all the confusion comes from

Quote:
Perhaps you should apply to the ICZN ...
Ahwww, just noticed I somehow bodged that abbreviation in the OP - sorry

No, I'm no advocate of either version - just wanted to know what the heck was going on. They both have good/valid arguments in my opinion - Wagner 'by the rules', Tamanini in 'common sense' Not sure another change would do the confusion any good (meaning, it would 'help' the confusion ).

Quote:
Do you think Wagner & Taminini were good mates?


This time of year, one would hope both man were 'big' enough to not let a little disagreement stand in the way of that

Cheers! Arp
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Old 16-12-2008, 11:04 AM
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Re: The Heterotoma confusion

Well I did notice that Wagner's version means that he remains as the author of a species, Tamini's version doesn't. I think Kissinger said something like "Academic politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."
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Old 16-12-2008, 01:07 PM
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Re: The Heterotoma confusion

very interesting Arp, I had no idea the nomenclature had such a chequered history! The two names are indeed regarded as synonymous in UK, with planicornis the current recommended name and merioptera the older one...
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Old 16-12-2008, 06:40 PM
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Re: The Heterotoma confusion

Fascinating, Arp - thanks for digging it all up!

My take on this is that merioptera has to be suppressed. If there are no types, and it could have been one of two species, we simply can't know what it was ever meant to refer to... The two species would therefore have to be:

Heterotoma planicornis (Pallas, 1772) [with most citations of merioptera appearing in synonymy lists for western occurrences, but not being a true synonym]
Heterotoma dalmatina (Wagner, 1950)

As Posch says, you could apply to the ICZN to conserve merioptera, but it's not as if planicornis is obscure. Personally, I'm happy with planicornis. But then, I am British, so I might have to invent some spurious synonymies just for the fun of it...

Joe
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Old 17-12-2008, 03:30 AM
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Re: The Heterotoma confusion

Howdy2All,

Thanks for all your thoughtful answers

The whole summary was not so much intended to 'get things sorted' - someone may already have presented the issue to the ICZN long ago (maybe even Wagner or Tamanini themselves?) and maybe the current practice of H. planicornis for our beast is a result of that. I don't know these things, but maybe it's fun to find out, so I'll try to check with Berend Aukema to see what his take on the matter is.

All this was just the summary of what a total Heteroptera/Biology-nincompoop had found by surfing the net a little after being confused by the names and I figured I'd share the findings here - and tease you Brits a litte - as some of you may have been confused about the dual names in the past too. That's all really. I have no preferences either way, as long as it's clear what one is talking about and a "sensu Wagner/Tamanini" appended solves that just fine imho.

All in all, stricktly speaking, I would agree with Joe/Posch that the merioptera name would probably best be dumped altogether, but as I'm not too much of a Pavlov-sucker for rules I also like Tamanini's common sense solution - it's just the most probable case, and why not 'honour' Scopoli a little by keeping the name

Just for fun and games, I'll see what I can find out about this and ICZN

Cheers, Arp

Last edited by Pudding4brains; 17-12-2008 at 03:32 AM.
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