Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Type: Correspondence
Published: 2016-11-23
Page range: 435–445
Abstract views: 421
PDF downloaded: 148

Photography-based taxonomy is inadequate, unnecessary, and potentially harmful for biological sciences

Department of Biology, Villanova University, Villanova, United States of America. Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência, Lisboa, Portugal.
Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade de Brasília, CEP 70910-900, Brasilia, DF, Brazil. National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, United States of America.
ISYEB, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Sorbonne Universités, Paris, France.


The question whether taxonomic descriptions naming new animal species without type specimen(s) deposited in collections should be accepted for publication by scientific journals and allowed by the Code has already been discussed in Zootaxa (Dubois & Nemésio 2007; Donegan 2008, 2009; Nemésio 2009a–b; Dubois 2009; Gentile & Snell 2009; Minelli 2009; Cianferoni & Bartolozzi 2016; Amorim et al. 2016). This question was again raised in a letter supported by 35 signatories published in the journal Nature (Pape et al. 2016) on 15 September 2016. On 25 September 2016, the following rebuttal (strictly limited to 300 words as per the editorial rules of Nature) was submitted to Nature, which on 18 October 2016 refused to publish it. As we think this problem is a very important one for zoological taxonomy, this text is published here exactly as submitted to Nature, followed by the list of the 493 taxonomists and collection-based researchers who signed it in the short time span from 20 September to 6 October 2016.



  1. Amorim, D.S, Santos, C.M.D., Krell, F.-T., Dubois, A., Nihei, S.S., Oliveira, O.M.P., Pont, A., Song, H., Verdade, V.K., Fachin, D.A., Klassa, B., Lamas, C.J.E., Oliveira, S.S., Carvalho, C.J.B. De, Mello-Patiu, C.A., Hajdu, E., Couri, M.S., Silva, V.C., Capellari, R.S., Falaschi, R.L., Feitosa, R.M., Prendini, L., Pombal, J.P.J., Fernández, F., Rocha, R.M., Lattke, J.E., Caramaschi, U., Duarte, M., Marques, A.C., Reis, R.E., Kurina, O., Takiya, D.M., Tavares, M., Fernandes, D.S., Franco, F.L., Cuezzo, F., Paulson, D., Guénard, B., Schlick-Steiner, B.C., Arthofer, W., Steiner, F.M., Fisher, B.L., Johnson, R.A., Delsinne, T.D., Donoso, D.A., Mulieri, P.R., Patitucci, L.D., Carpenter, J.M., Herman, L. & Grimaldi, D. (2016) Timeless standards for species delimitation. Zootaxa, 4137 (1), 121–128.

    Cianferoni, F. & Bartolozzi, L. (2016) Warning: potential problems for taxonomy on the horizon? Zootaxa, 4139 (1), 128–130.

    Donegan, T.M. (2008) New species and subspecies descriptions do not and should not always require a dead type specimen. Zootaxa, 1761, 37–48.

    Donegan, T.M. (2009) Type specimens, samples of live individuals and the Galapagos Pink Land Iguana. Zootaxa, 2021, 12–20.

    Dubois, A. (2009) Endangered species and endangered knowledge. Zootaxa, 2201, 26–29.

    Dubois, A. & Nemésio, A. (2007) Does nomenclatural availability of nomina of new species or subspecies require the deposition of vouchers in collections? Zootaxa 1409, 1–22.

    Gentile, G. & Snell, H. (2009) Conolophus marthae sp. nov. (Squamata: Iguanidae), a new species of land iguana from the Galápagos archipelago. Zootaxa, 2201, 1–10.

    Minelli, A. (2009) Commentaries on Gentile & Snell (2009): an introduction. Zootaxa, 2201, 11.

    Nemésio, A. (2009a) Nomenclatural availability of nomina of new species should always require the deposition of preserved specimens in collections: a rebuttal to Donegan (2008). Zootaxa, 2045, 1–16.

    Nemésio, A. (2009b) On the live holotype of the Galápagos pink land Iguana, Conolophus marthae Gentile & Snell, 2009 (Squamata: Iguanidae): is it an acceptable exception? Zootaxa, 2201, 21–25.

    Pape, T. (2016) Taxonomy: species can be named from photos. Nature, 537, 307–307.

    [International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature] (1999) International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Fourth edition. London, International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature, xxix + 306 pp.