I have hunted butterflies in various climes and disguises: as a pretty boy in knickerbockers and sailor cap; as a lanky cosmopolitan expatriate in flannel bags and beret; as a fat hatless old man in shorts.
~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
[W]hen Ignatz Doofus publishes a new name with a crummy drawing and a few lines of telegraphic and muddled description in the Proceedings of the Philomathematical Society of Pfennighalbpfennig (circulation 533), it passes into well-deserved oblivion. Unfortunately, under the [code] of strict priority, Herr Doofus’s name, if published first, becomes the official moniker of the species – long as Doofus didn’t break any rule in writing his report. The competence and usefulness of his work have no bearing on the decision. The resulting situation is perversely curious. What other field defines its major activity by the work of the least skilled? (Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History, 1991, p. 82)
In other sciences the work of incompetents is merely ignored; in taxonomy, because of priority, it is preserved.
. . . the first designation shall prevail, unless a later name has been so widely accepted that its suppression in favor of a forgotten predecessor would sow confusion and instability.
One can assume, I think, that there was a certain point in time when both Americas were entirely devoid of Plebejinæ but were on the very eve of receiving an invasion of them from Asia where they had been already evolved.
. . . I find it easier to give a friendly little push to some of the forms and hang my distributional horseshoes on the nail of Nome rather than postulate transoceanic land-bridges in other parts of the world.
In a paper just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Phylogeny and palaeoecology of Polyommatus blue butterflies show Beringia was a climate-regulated gateway to the New World, January 26, 2011), Naomi E. Pierce of the Museum of Comparative Zoology and her co-authors have built a case supporting Nabokov’s hypothesis in detail, using DNA sequencing, among other tools. They concluded,
Phylogenetic results support Vladimir Nabokov’s hypothesis that the New World Polyommatus are the product of at least five colonization events through Beringia that occurred successively from ca 11 Ma [million years ago] until 1 Ma.
But, not to worry, Nabokov successfully named several butterflies and moths, such as the subspecies Cyllopsis pertepida dorothea Nabokov 1942, and was honored in the names of others, such as Hesperia nabokovi, Madeleinea vokoban (trivial name is Nabokov spelled backwards), and Madeleinea lolita.