Case 3407 (van der Linde et al., 2007) is a proposal to conserve the binomen Drosophila melanogaster. The combination is threatened by revision of the genus Drosophila. We agree that the binomen should be preserved and we agree that the genus is large and paraphyletic but we disagree with some of the qualifying arguments. We would prefer that the taxonomy of DROSOPHILIDAE be guided, not driven, by molecular biological data.
The application to set aside all previous type fixations for the genus DrosophilaFallén, 1823 and to instead fix Drosophila melanogaster (Meigen, 1830) as the type species should be rejected for several reasons:
The Commission is asked by van der Linde et al. (BZN 64: 238–242) to preserve the binomen Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, 1830. Some obvious points of the application should be stressed and some weak points reviewed.
1. Nomenclatural rules (the Code) regulate nomenclature, i.e. the rules govern how names are used to label recognized taxa formally at family, genus and species level in the Linnean and other systems.
We are writing in opposition to the van der Linde et al. proposal to set aside Drosophila funebris (Fabricius, 1787) as the type of the genus Drosophila Fallén, 1823 and replace it with Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, 1830. Van der Linde and colleagues’ case makes the argument that the paraphyletic nature of the genus Drosophila necessitates a nomenclatural change. This confuses classification, in this case phylogenetic classification, with nomenclature. It essentially asks the commission to rule in support of an unpublished classification without nomenclatural necessity.
We oppose the application to conserve the usage of Drosophila in the sense of melanogaster Meigen. This proposal seeks the endorsement by the Commission of a particular classification and classification paradigm, whereas the preamble of the Code asserts the freedom of taxonomic thought or action. While the stated purpose is the conservation of usage, the proposal in fact seeks to establish by that a new and as yet undefined concept of Drosophila. Today Drosophila is accepted as a large genus of flies, containing a number of species of importance to genetics.
The proposition of Van der Linde et al. (BZN 64: 238–242) to maintain the name of Drosophila melanogaster has two consequences. The first is the loss of the name ‘Sophophora’ through synonymy with Drosophila. The second is the loss of identity of the current genus Drosophila (s.s.). To justify their proposition Van der Linde et al. (BZN 64: 238–242) emphasized the role of D. melanogaster in science and weakened the taxonomical significance of Drosophila (s.l.) and Drosophila (s.s.) that they proposed to split. In my opinion their arguments are oversimplified or not justified.
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.
I wish to express my strong support for the application. Drosophila melanogaster is one of the few names in zoology that are recognised as such within numerous biological disciplines, and it is one of the first names that every student of biology meets having entered the field. As such its preservation is a matter of importance far beyond the field of taxonomy. As the object of the Code of Nomenclature is to promote stability and universality, it is difficult to think of a case where a decision by the Commission would be more important.
In my opinion, if the Commission decides to support this application that would be against the rules of the Code and would create bad precedent.