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Ray: Did you look at the Type of Leiopython gracilis???

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Posted by Richard Wells on March 12, 2002 at 23:44:12:

In Reply to: Excuse me! posted by Raymond Hoser on March 07, 2002 at 04:23:41:

Hello Ray,

Forgive me if I have overlooked it in your Python paper - which as you know I found very interesting - but I couldn't see where you discussed or considered the junior synonym of Leiopython gracilis.
My concern with your albertisi changes mainly revolves around the status of Leiopython gracilis. The characters that you use may be open to differing interpretations in regards their significance, and so be it.
To be sure, you probably know much more about the albertisi situation than I do, but the status of gracilis is of interest to me, because I once considered splitting up the species in 1985 in my never published New Guinea paper. At the time I felt that it was not at all a clear cut situation, particularly in light of the existence of the synonym Leiopython gracilis. I couldn't just trot over to Europe and check it out, but I did write to the museum where the specimen was held for a photograph and their opinion on the matter, but I didn't receive a reply. As you may recall in 1985 after the "Classification" was published my house was burgled and all my disks with diaries, correspondence and manuscript copies of my intended papers on the herpetology of New Guinea, Indonesia, the Pacific, as well as my intended Synopses of the Australian Mammals, Birds and Fishes were stolen. So after that experience I was rather unwilling to do much of anything for quite awhile.
But the herpetofauna of New Guinea has always fascinated me so I take particular interest in anything that appears in the literature.
Don't get me wrong Ray...I would really like to use your names for the albertisi group...but I have to be convinced that what ever name I use is representative of a biological reality. As you know, I have never criticised anyone who failed to use the Wells and Wellington classification on the grounds that the relevant descriptions were inadequate for them to be convinced. Brevity of description is not a crime against humanity, but I know from my own particular experience that it can be really unfair to inflict it upon others who may not have the same understanding of the taxa that you have. If I have learned anything from the days of old it is that most herpetologists do not think globally, or even continentally. In fact, most have a deep knowledge of their particular interest, but their interests are very narrow or specialised. It may be even too much for someone to be as equally conversant with you on say on the whole family Pythonidae. So what I am saying Ray is this - It is better to go to the trouble of covering any possible areas that may cloud understanding. If I was to do the Wells and Wellington thing all over again...I would never deal with an entire Class in one go again. I think that it's even too much for a readership to deal with the taxonomy of an entire family in a paper.
Now back to the point.
I interpreted your paper to mean that Leiopython gracilis is, as Cogger et al (and others) have maintained, merely a synonym of albertisi. If so, then all is well and good. The problem as I see it is simply the need to address the synonymy that MAY have the potential to be valid before erecting a new name. It may seem a rather trivial point, and may indicate my own limited knowledge of the matter at hand, but if you want to convince others to follow your leadership, then I think its important leave a clear trail. I know it may sound almost hypocritical of ME telling you to consider synonyms in light of what others believe I have done, but it is not. In my articles in 1984 and 1985 on no occasion did I deliberately fail to acknowledge the potential validity of an earlier synonym (although I did accidentally ignore an earlier generic name for a group of Amphibia, but I did use it in an earlier draft, then inexplicably ignored it later!). But one thing that I did do which I have always regretted is not spell out the fate of the other synonymic names. Obviously, those who knew the issues knew precisely what I was doing and clearly understood the residual synonymic implications. But these people were in the minority. Most didn't know what the hell had happened to the status of the unused synonyms because I wrongly assumed that everyone would figure it out easily! Big mistake Ray, and you would do well not to repeat it.

Anyway, just a few thoughts and if you get the chance tell me what your decisions are regarding the fate of Leiopython albertisi. Perhaps you could borrow the Type and resolve it's status.

Yours Pedantically,

Richard Wells

:Pity you haven't read my original paper as it dealt with all other synonyms for the snake known as Leiopython albertisi!
: Best to read first before shooting from the mouth.
: None of the forms described by myself have prior names and that's why I named them.
: Anything illegal about this?

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