[Syrphidae] From Doug Yaneda

Francis Gilbert Francis.Gilbert at nottingham.ac.uk
Mon Mar 14 16:50:05 GMT 2022

On 3/13/22 9:20 AM, Stefan Pruner wrote:

Might anyone be able to tell me the meaning of "plena" Collin assigned to Brachyopa plena in his 1939 paper "Notes on Syrphidae III"?
My Latin dictionary has a few meanings for 'plenus'.

As a general rule:

If the original publication does not give an etymology, and more than one is possible, then under the ICZN the etymology becomes irrelevant to how the name is subsequently spelled. All that matters is whether the possible definitions are all strictly adjectival and declinable, all strictly indeclinable (nouns, verbs, certain types of adjective), or a mix of both.

If the definitions include both nouns and declinable adjectives, and the original author did not make their intent explicit, then under ICZN Article 31.2.2 it must be treated as indeclinable by default.

One of the best-known examples of this in syrphids in Eupeodes volucris. The word can be either a noun or an adjective (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/volucris#Latin), and the OD did not specify which. In this particular case, however, since the gender of Eupeodes is masculine, the original spelling would have had to be "volucer" for it to be treated as adjectival.

A somewhat similar and instructive example is Brachyopa cyanella, which was originally published as "Brachypalpus cyanella'' by Osten Sacken, and thereby obviously a noun, even if 31.2.2 is applicable, which is debatable: grammatically, there is no such adjective in Latin or Greek (and Osten Sacken was evidently aware of this) - "cyanus" is a noun in both languages, and technically a "latinized" version of this noun spelled "cyana" (or its diminutive "cyanella") would likewise not be considered adjectival, but apparently there are cases where taxonomists have treated this epithet, used for other taxa, as if it were an adjective (e.g., "Ziminiola cyanella Mesnil, 1978" a tachinid name presently in use misspelled as "Mesnilus cyanellus"), so the debate is whether incorrect treatment of a noun by taxonomists as if it were an adjective is sufficient to compel us to invoke Art. 31.2.2 to resolve the matter. Personally, I don't consider it appropriate to use tautologies to determine how the Code should be applied - i.e., that "It's an adjective because taxonomists use it as an adjective" is circular logic, when all that should count is what a dictionary says.

In the case of "plena", I can't find any evidence that this is ever anything other than a declinable adjective.



Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum

Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega

phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)


Professor Francis Gilbert
Division of Cells, Organisms & Genetics, School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham
B132 Life Sciences Building, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD
Tel: 0115 951 3215
website: www.nottingham.ac.uk/~plzfg

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