Comments on the proposed conservation of the usage of the generic name of Drosophila Fallén, 1823 (Insecta, Diptera) by fixation of Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, 1830 as type species. 2 (Case 3407)

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2008
Authors:Y. Roisin
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Volume:65
Issue:3
Start Page:215
Pagination:215
Date Published:09/2008
Type of Article:Comment
ISSN:0007-5167
Full Text

I tend to be conservative and believe that the Commission should not use its plenary powers every now and then to rescue junior names favoured by a mere handful of researchers, but I agree with Polaszek (BZN 65: 55) that if there be one binomen in zoological nomenclature that should be cast in concrete, it is Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, 1830.
For decades, this species has been the most widely used model in genetics and developmental biology. The supremacy of D. melanogaster over its congeners in current research is still overwhelming: a search in ISI Web of Sciencet with the species name as topic resulted in 26,608 hits for D. melanogaster since 1987 (checked on 24 April 2008), against 11 for D. funebris, the present type species of Drosophila Fallén. The other Drosophila of the funebris-group defended by Yassin (BZN 65: 56) lay also far behind D. melanogaster, the most frequently cited of these being D. virilis with 368 records. Note that D. simulans Sturtevant, 1919, one of the closest relatives of D. melanogaster, fares better (893 records). This species, important in speciation studies, would also be preserved from a change of genus by the designation of D. melanogaster as type species of Drosophila.
It is clear that with the development of phylogenetic knowledge, the strict application of the Code would soon result in the transfer of D. melanogaster to Sophophora Sturtevant. Although some strict taxonomists would perhaps acknowledge such a change, a multitude of molecular and developmental biologists would regard with utmost incomprehension their flagship species renamed Sophophora melanogaster. This would cause extreme confusion, especially because so many non-taxonomists are involved. This is an exceptional case, where the whole credibility of the Commission is at stake. I highly recommend that the Commission vote in favour of the application of van der Linde et al. (BZN 64: 238–242).

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith