Comments on the proposed conservation of Buettneria Case, 1922 (Amphibia) 1

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2008
Authors:A. B. Heckert
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Start Page:310
Date Published:12/2008
Type of Article:Comment
Full Text

I endorse Lucas et al.’s (2007) application to conserve the long- and commonly used name of the Late Triassic temnospondyl Buettneria Case, 1922, in spite of objections raised by Hausdorf (2008, BZN 65(1): 61–62). Abandoning this widely used name in favor of the essentially unused homonyms Buettneria Simroth, 1888 and Buettneria (=Büttneria) Karsch, 1889 would destabilise zoological nomenclature.

 Hausdorf (2008) is correct that Simroth (1888) did propose the name Buettneria for a urocyclid gastropod before Karsch (1889) proposed Büttneria (=Buettneria)
for an orthopteran insect. However, Simroth did not describe the taxon
until later (Simroth, 1890), and thus his proposal of the replacement
name Buettnerella Simroth (1910) can be viewed as an implicit
understanding that Karsch described the orthopteran prior to Simroth’s
description of the gastropod. Even if Buettneria Simroth is considered senior to Buettneria Karsch,
Simroth’s name only appeared in compendia and faunal lists (Cockerell,
1893, Heynemann, 1906, Thiele, 1931, Zilch, 1959) until the work of Van
Goethem (1975, 1977) and Schileyko (2002), thereby failing to meet the
criteria to determine usage set forth in Article 23.9. The online
Zoological Record database suggests that Mollendorf (1890) also
published the name Buettneria leuckharti, but this is apparently an error in the database, as Mollendorf (1890), while covering similar taxa, makes no mention of Buettneria,
nor does he cite Simroth. The following paragraphs demonstrate the
near-total lack of usage of Simroth’s name and the problematic nature
of discriminating between Simroth’s and Karsch’s.

 Simroth (1888, p. 87) clearly was the first to establish the generic name Buettneria and the species B. leuckharti and
even provided a diagnosis (‘Wie die vorige, aber eine mit dem Penis
verbundeenen Pfeildrüse’). However, he did not designate a type until
later. (Simroth, 1890) when he also used the abbreviations n. g. and n.
sp. to designate Buettneria leuckharti as a new taxon. He
provided an etymology for both the generic and specific names,
indicated that there was a type specimen and illustrated it (Simroth,
1890, pl. 3, figs. 3, 7, 16). However, between his initial use of the
name (Simroth, 1888) and more formal description (Simroth, 1890),
Karsch had described the orthopteran Büttneria, as documented by Mueller (2006) and Lucas et al. (2007). Thus, in 1910 Simroth appeared to concede that Buettneria was preoccupied and designated the new name Buettnerella (Simroth,
1910, p. 611), which he used for that taxon in the few other instances
it appeared in that publication and was subsequently used in a faunal
list by Pilsbry (1919, p. 300).

 The only gastropod work to address Simroth’s concept of Buettneria is relatively recent. Van Goethem (1975) named several taxa, including a new species, B. garambaensis,
prior to a more thorough treatment of the subfamily UROCYCLINAE (Van
Goethem (1977). Since then only Schileyko (2002) has reviewed the
genus, naming the tribe BUETTNERIINI Schileyko to encompass the genera Elisolinax Cockerell, Nuphus Van Goethem, Bukobia, Simroth, and Buettneria Simroth. This is the entire taxonomic history of Buettneria Simroth,
demonstrating that the name has only been used in three contributions
to taxonomic literature (Van Goethem, 1975, 1977; Schileyko, 2002). All
other uses are faunal lists, maps, and compendia, and the only
taxonomic work between Simroth (1890) and Van Goethem (1975) is Simroth
(1910), in which he expressly uses the name Buettnerella. Thus Buettneria Simroth fails to satisfy the criteria of usage set forth in Article 23.9.

 In contrast to the occasional listing of either the urocyclid
gastropod or the orthopteran insect, Lucas et al. (2007) documented
more than 75 usages of Buettneria as the name for a Triassic temnospondyl in the literature. I have found a further 25 usages of Buettneria in
the same context and this list has also been lodged with the ICZN
Secretariat. In addition to the primary literature and textbooks cited
by Lucas et al. (2007), the holotype of Buettneria is
commonly used in phylogenetic analyses of metoposaurid ingroup
relationships (e.g. Davidow-Henry, 1989; Hunt, 1989, 1993) as well as
the phylogenetic position of metoposaurs within Temnospondyli generally
(Yates &Warren, 2000). Because of the abundant material of Buettneria known
from multiple bonebeds in the American Southwest (Case, 1932; Romer,
1939; Colbert & Imbrie, 1956) the name is entrenched not only in
the literature of Late Triassic amphibians, including major systematic
treatments (e.g. Hunt, 1993; Sulej, 2007), but it is and continues to
be the standard name applied to Late Triassic metoposaurid
temnospondyls for comparisons with other taxa (e.g. Pawley &
Warren, 2005, 2006; Pawley, 2007; Ruta et al., 2007; Schoch, 2008). A
list of Lucas et al. (2007, pers. comm.) and other sources shows that
the name Buettneria Case has been used throughout its
history, and with increasing regularity, from three references in the
1920s to more than 29 in the present decade. Indeed, Buettneria Case
was used by other workers in the 1920s (Branson & Mehl, 1928, 1929)
and, with 27 references from 1922 to 1972, never went more than five
years without at least one mention in the scientific literature.
Importantly, not only are four of the references cited in this
paragraph in addition to the list provided by Lucas et al., (2007), but
most of these authors refer to the temnospondyl throughout their papers
(e.g. Sulej, 2007). Thus, not only is the name entrenched in the
literature, but also individual citations utilise the name repeatedly,
so that the total number of usages in the literature is vastly larger
than the nearly 100 references tabulated by Lucas et al. (2007) and
myself. This shows that the usage of Buettneria to describe a
temnospondyl amphibian is not only common and entrenched in the
literature, but that it continues to be used at an ever-increasing
 Indeed, the instructions to authors in the Bulletin of
Zoological Nomenclature request that, where possible, ten or more
reasonably recent references should be given illustrating the usage of
names that are to be conserved or given precedence over older names.
Lucas et al. (2007) and the references I provide here include at least
thirty-five systematic references from the past decade alone.

 Finally, although museum exhibits are beyond the purview of the Code, I note that exhibits of Buettneria as
a temnospondyl amphibian are prominent at the American Museum of
Natural History (New York), the United States National Museum 
(Washington), University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology (Ann
Arbor), the State Museum of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg), the Texas
Memorial Museum (Austin), the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and
Science (Albuquerque), and the Mesa Southwest Museum (Mesa, Arizona),
among others. The usage of the name Buettneria in these temnospondyl exhibits clearly reflects curators’ awareness of this term in the paleontological literature.

 Thus, to best serve the stability and universality of zoological nomenclature, the generic names Buettneria Simroth 1888 and Buettneria Karsch, 1889 should be suppressed and the generic name Buettneria Case 1922 should be conserved. The generic name Buettnerella Simroth 1910 should be applied to the molluscan species B. leuckharti Simroth and B. garambaensis Van Goethem. The junior subjective synonym Stenacropteryx Karsch 1896 remains available for the insect Buettneria Karsch 1889.

Additional references

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Branson, E.B. & Mehl, M.G. 1929. Triassic amphibians from the Rocky Mountain region, The University of Missouri Studies, 4(2): 154–253.

Case, E.C. 1932. A collection of stegocephalians from Scurry County, Texas, Contributions of the Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan, 4: 1–56.

Cockerell, T.D.A. 1893. A check-list of the slugs, The Conchologist, 2(8): 185–232.

Colbert, E.H. & Imbrie, J. 1956. Triassic metoposaurid amphibians, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 110: 403–452.

Davidow-Henry, B. 1989. Small metoposaurid amphibians from the Triassic of western North America and their significance. Pp. 278–292 in Lucas, S.G., and Hunt, A.P. (Eds.), Dawn of the Age of Dinosaurs in the American Southwest. New Mexico Museum of Natural History, Albuquerque.

Heyneman, D.F. 1906. Die geografische Verbreitung der Nacktschnecken, Abhandlungen von der Senckenbergischen Naturforschenden Gesellschaft, 30: 1–92.

Hunt, A.P. 1989.
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Mollendorff, O.F. von. 1890. Diagnosen neuer Landschnecken von den Philippinen, Nachrichtsblatt der Deutschen Malakozoologischen Geselleschaft: 190–209.

Pawley, K. 2007. Postcranial skeleton of Trimerorhachis insignis Cope, 1878 (Temnospondyli: Trimerorhachidae): A plesiomorphic temnospondyl from the Lower Permian of North America, Journal of Paleontology, 80(4): 873–894.

Pawley, K. & Warren, A. 2005. A terrestrial stereospondyl from the Lower Triassic of South Africa: The postcranial skeleton of Lydekkerina huxleyi (Amphibia: Temnospondyli), Palaeontology, 48(2): 281–298.

Pawley, K. & Warren, A. 2006. The appendicular skeleton of Eryops megacephalus Cope, 1877 (Temnospondyli: Eryopoidea) from the Lower Permian of North America, Journal of Paleontology, 80(3): 561–580.

Pilsbry, H.A. 1919. A
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Ruta, M., Pisani, D., Lloyd, G.T. & Benton, M.J. 2007. A supertree of Temnospondyli: cladogenetic patterns in the most species-rich group of early tetrapods. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 274: 3087–3094.

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Simroth, H. 1890. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Nacktschnecken, Nova
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Van Goethem, J.L. 1975. Descriptions et diagnoses préliminaires d’espe`ces et genres nouveaux d’Urocyclinae, Revue de Zoologie Africaine, 89(4): 860–870.

Van Goethem, J.L. 1977. Révision systématique des Urocyclinae (Mollusca, Pulmonata, Urocyclidae), Musée Royal de L’Afrique Centrale-Tervuren, Belgique Annales, Serie in -8, Sciences Zoologiques (218): 1–355.

Yates, A.M. & Warren, A.A. 2000.
The phylogeny of the ‘higher’ temnospondyls (Vertebrata: Choanata) and
its implications for the monophyly and origins of the Stereospondyli. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 128: 77–121.

Zilch, A. 1959. Gastropoda: Euthyneura. Pp. 201–400 in Wenz, W. (Ed.), Handbuch der Paläozoologie. Gebrüder Borntraeger, Berlin.

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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