type specimen of _Homo sapiens_
Monique D. Reed
monique at BIO.TAMU.EDU
Sun Dec 31 12:54:58 CST 1995
Just a little oddity to end the old year...
There was some discussion previously about the type specimen for our
own species. We had pretty much decided that good old Linnaeus was
the type. (Narrowly beating out Bob Hope...)
I've just read, though, that Linnaeus is NOT the type. The type of
_Homo sapiens_ is one Ed Drinker Cope, an American dinosaur-hunting
paleontologist from the 1800's.
It seems that Cope's long-time wish was to be designated the type of
the species. But since everyone assumed that Linnaeus had taken care
of that, naming himself the type, Cope's wish wasn't granted.
However, several years ago, it was "discovered" or "noticed" that
Linnaeus had failed to provide a *description* of Homo sapiens,
giving only what translates as "know thyself". A group of
journalists and scientists, fans of Cope's and at work on book about
dinosaurs and paleontologists--and in possession of Cope's actual
mortal remains-- decided that _Homo sapiens_ needed to be described and
typified. Bob Bakker, reknowned dino detective, reckoned that the
clearest distinction between our species and our "lower" ancestors is
the size of the cranial capacity. He spent some time laboriously
filling Cope's skull with tiny ancini de pepe pasta beads to
calculate its volume. From this a description was prepared--and
published. Cope finally has his wish, and his skull in its mahogany
carrying case resides in a museum, complete with a brass plate
attesting its type specimen status. (I think it's in the Philadelphia
Academy of Science, but I may be wrong...)
This wonderful story can be found in the book *The Dinosaur Hunters*,
written by two National Geographic photojournalists. I've only just
begun to plumb its depths. If I find the journal citation of the
Bakker article, I'll post it.
Here's to an interesting 1996!
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77803
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