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Formal synonymy and ethnozoology

Posted by Altaba on 15 Jan 2009 at 09:54 GMT

Dear colleagues,

Reading your recent paper on mitochondrial phylogeography of tigers has been a great pleasure. I enjoyed all the information in it, and also the sharp analyses you make. I think there is a desperate need for research such as yours in biogeography and conservation biology.

As a reader, I would like to point out two issues that may be interesting to you. First, I think there is a need to designate a holotype of the Caspian tiger. Yes, I agree that there is no need to keep the subspecies P. v. virgata as valid. But in terms of the Code of Zoological Nomenclature, it does matter. Basically, the problem is that a formal nomenclature act such as establishing a synonymy should be firmly grounded following the Code. This needs to be made in print, a factor that has been debated in relation to taxonomic descriptions in PLoS ONE. So, a solution would be to add an appendix to the paper, formulating the proposed synonymy, and also stating that "numerous" (say, 100) paper copies have been made of that appendix for permanent record.

A second issue deals with the migration of tigers to the Russian Far East. In V. Arseniev's book "Dersu Uzala", in which the life of this taiga hunter is vividly explained, there is a most relevant passage (I don't remember the page, but I am sure it is there). One day, Dersu explained how tigers had recently migrated from the Siberian inland into the coastal region, across the Sikhote Alin mountain chain. If he had not witnessed that, it surely was a common knowledge among his tribe of skilled hunters. When I read this, I was indeed surprised but had no grounds to evaluate such idea. Now I know it is true!

All the best,


Cristian R. Altaba, PhD
DG Biodiversity, Dpt of the Environment, Govt of the Balearic Islands, and
Laboratory of Human Systematics, University of the Balearic Islands