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Posted by chrish on January 13, 2003 at 12:34:23:

In Reply to: Re: AOU vs SSAR posted by Kenny Wray on January 13, 2003 at 11:49:49:

I doubt that they would, as a major difference between herpers and birders is we can and do keep/breed/sale herps, which often have a different price tag associated with a particular name.

It doesn't really matter to me what you call it when it is in a deli cup at the expo (you can call it L.g.brooksi or a South FL King, both names are just as bogus!).
My target audience is the rest the US, not necessarily the herpers. I think about all the well meaning backyard naturalists who would like to have useful common names. Many birders would like to know them, for example.

Maybe any new species descriptions should include a standard common name (or at least one that we would be stuck using to eliminate any competition to come up with and "brand" a particular common name).

I agree, but there must be some ground rules set out about what constitutes a valid common name (just as their is for scientific nomenclature) and those names should be reviewed periodically by some relatively unbiased group.

Again, here is where the AOU has set a good precedent. There are strict rules, and new names are reviewed.

Another strong point of Crother, et al, IMHO.

But the field guides used standard names and they continued to fluctuate more wildly than the actual scientific names.

I disagree. Yes there are a few problem areas, but many (most?) herps have well established common names that no one seems to be troubled by. I don't hear anyone pointing out things like Northern Leopard Frog or Speckled Kingsnake as examples of the flaws in common names.

In the last 15 years, the Trans-pecos Ratsnake has gone from being Elaphe subocularis to Bogertophis subocularis to Bogertophis subocularis subocularis. Meanwhile, it has always been the Trans-pecos Ratsnake.

A corn snake will still be a corn snake, regardless of what generic changes are made and what shuffling of the rat snake phylogeny occurs.

I don't see the common names as more volatile than scientific names. And if there was a standard, that might even decrease what little volatility there is.

I would actually use the argument that we should use this smaller group to our advantage and have everyone adopt the scientific name, but, most people do not seem to want to learn.

I think you and Troy may be overlooking my point. I agree that hobbyists could all learn the scientific names and that this would make communication easier (assuming we could agree on the scientific names).

But we need English names for the herps for everyone else. We aren't the only people who need to be able to communicate about herps. The average Joe on the street isn't going to learn scientific nomenclature and if you don't give him a name he can use, he will make up a name on his own - like Chicken Snake, etc. And you end up where we are now. If you can say, no, Joe, that's not a Chicken Snake, that's a TX Ratsnake, there is a chance he will start using the correct name.

Furthermore, I would argue that giving herps common names that the average people can use has conservation value as well. It is a lot easier to teach people to care about protecting habitat for the Louisiana Pine Snake than it is to teach them do it for Pituophis melanoleucus ruthveni, and then to come back later and tell them, "No, it's Pituophis ruthveni,...or maybe it is Pituophis melanoleucus ruthveni". Common names tend to be more stable.

As you pointed out, they have been around for years and, even despite many attempts over the years to standardize them, they have fallen way short. The energy required to convince them to adopt a standardized list is just short of the energy required to teach them the scientific nomenclature.

Actually, I think most efforts have worked well, to a point. Clearly the names used by Conant and Stebbins have been widely accepted. Don't hear much arguement about those.

When Collins first proposed his standardized common names list, I think it was headed in the right direction. However, it soon became a philosophical bully pulpit for his personal views on taxonomy and systematics, and that's when it went off course.

That's why I like the Crother committee approach better. They don't try to force phylogenetic changes through in their common name list. It is simply an attempt to assign common names to the most widely accepted taxonomy.

On a different topic: My biology students are doing an internet project in which they must select an endangered/threatened species from Texas and write a webpage on that organism, including an interview with a biologist who is working (or has worked) with that species. One of the groups has Coniophanes imperialis. Would you be interested in cooperating with them for the interview process?

It isn't that I am unwilling, it is that I don't know the slightest thing about imperialis (I haven't ever seen one in the US in fact). I worked on C. piceivittis/C.schmidti, so I doubt I could be much help. Sorry.

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