Taxonomic vandalism is an emerging problem for biodiversity science: A case study in the Rutelini (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Rutelinae)

Monday, November 17, 2014: 9:48 AM
Portland Ballroom 251 (Oregon Convention Center)
Matthew Moore , Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Mary Liz Jameson , Department of Biology, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS
Aura Paucar-Cabrera , University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
Bad taxonomic practice characterized by unscientific decisions and professional misconduct is known as taxonomic vandalism.  Taxonomic vandalism can needlessly complicate conservation efforts, confuse medical professionals, disrupt grant administration, and negatively affect public perception of science. Self-published journals and books that are not peer reviewed have facilitated taxonomic vandalism within some animal groups. Marc Soula, an amateur entomologist, published extensive monographic revisions of scarab beetle tribe Rutelini (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Rutelinae). Soula’s monographs were of limited scientific value because they obfuscated higher classification, lacked synthesis and inclusion of other published literature, were not peer-reviewed, and contained numerous misspellings and omissions. Soula’s works included specific practices associated with taxonomic vandalism including: 1) using distribution as the sole character for new species, 2) invention of evidence, 3) repeat descriptions of new taxa, 4) describing new taxa based on teratology or minor color variation, 5) plagiarism and 6) scooping other scientists’ work. Productive work on the Rutelini has effectively ceased since the publication of Soula’s monographs due to taxonomic complications within the group. Comprehensive species catalogs covering two Rutelini subtribes were assembled in order to preliminarily address the new taxonomic issues created by these monographs. These catalogs were used to correct bad taxonomy and nomenclature within Rutelini including: 1) synonymization of genera and species, 2) proposing replacement names for homonyms, 3) correct errant type species designations, 4) identifying unavailable names, 5) and indentifying and correcting lapsus calami and misspellings.