Capsule summary: Bill Parker's case

Fri Feb 15 08:51:55 GMT 2008


Bill Parker's (2003a) unpublished thesis established that the species "Desmatosuchus" chamaensis did not belong to the genus Desmatosuchus, and assigned this species to a new genus, Heliocanthus, in a Systematic Paleontology section that specified the type species, distribution, etymology, diagnosis, holotype, type locality, etc. Although an unpublished thesis is not a valid taxonomic authority, its contents clearly indicated Parker's opinions and his intent to publish the name Heliocanthus. In early 2004, Parker sent a copy of his thesis to the NMMNHS, where it will certainly have been read as it deals with aetosaurs, a taxon of significance to the team there.

Parker then set about writing up his results for publication, submitting to the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology in May 2005. While Parker's comprehensive redescription and formal renaming of "D." chamaensis was in review and then in press at JSP, he reasserted the generic separation of "D." chamaensis three more times in published papers (Parker 2005:47; Parker and Irmis 2005:49-50; Parker 2006:54). He also authored or co-authored two published SVP abstracts that made the same point (Parker 2003b:85A; Stocker et al. 2004:abstract 73), for a total of five scientific publications (apart from the thesis) all demonstrating Parker's priority in having recognised the distinctness of "D." chamaensis and showing his prior claim on the renaming of this animal. It is difficult to imagine a clearer or more overwhelming staking out of a taxonomic claim. Lucas was one of the reviewers of Parker and Irmis (2005), and commented negatively in the review about Parker's taxonomic revision, so cannot have been ignorant of Parker's discovery and intent.

Meanwhile, publications emanating from the NMMNHS show that they still considered "D." chamaensis to belong to Desmatosuchus (Heckert et al. 2005a:314; Lucas et al. 2005:177; Heckert et al. 2005b:37). The last of these confirms that the NMMNHS team knew that Parker regarded this species as not belonging to Desmatosuchus).

So it came as a surprise, to say the least, when Lucas et al. (2006), a paper of one and a third pages, came out two weeks before Parker (2007) finally appeared in JSP. Lucas et al.'s paper, having been rushed through the NMMNHS's in-house Bulletin to beat Parker to press, established the new name Rioarribasuchus for "D." chamaensis, not crediting Parker for the recognition of its generic separation and depriving him of the naming rights. Note that Lucas et al.'s paper cites one of Parker's reassertions of generic separation (Parker and Irmis 2005), further demonstrating that the NMMNHS authors cannot have been ignorant of Parker's intentions.