Type of Homo sapiens

Neal Evenhuis neale at BISHOP.BISHOP.HAWAII.ORG
Fri Jan 5 10:54:07 CST 1996

On Fri, 5 Jan 1996, Richard Jensen wrote (to TAXACOM--I've cross-posted
>         'Since for nomenclatorial purposes the specimen most carefully
>         studied and recorded by the author is to be accepted as the type,
>         clearly Linnaeus himself, who was much addicted to autobiography
>         must stand as the type of his _Homo_ _sapiens_!  This conclusion
>         he would have regarded as satisfactory and just.  As he himself
>         said, "_Homo_ _nosce_ _Te_ _ipsum_." '
> Stearn's comment strikes me as a
> remark made in passing or as an interesting observation, not as a formal
> declaration of a lectotype.  Or, does the ICZN permit such casual
> statements to form the basis for typification?

Re: "casual" statements to form the basis of lectotypification:

This is an important change that has taken place in the 1985 ICZN Code.
Previous to the 1985 Code of the ICZN, an intentional declaration of
lectotypification must have been made in order for a lectotype to have
been designated.

The current Code now states (copied from Rosenberg's posting--thanks Gary):

ICZN Article 74b states "When it cannot be determined that a
nominal species-group taxon was established on a single specimen,
and when a holotype was not designated, the first author to have
published the inference (see Article 73a(ii)) that one original
specimen is the "holotype", or "the type", is deemed, should
another syntype or syntypes be discovered, to have designated a
lectotype (see Article 72b (vii) and Recommendation 73F)...."

. . . which I like to call "allowing lectotypification by accident".

(The draft Code does not change much, if at all, from this wording.)

This wording of the Code does nothing to "stabiliz[s]e" anything; but, in
fact can lead to much confusion.

Examples from specimens in the BMNH: There are many cases where an author
states in a publication: "the type of [place species here] is in the
British Museum" when no "holotype" for that species ever existed in the
BMNH, but a single specimen of a syntype series labeled as "TYPE" (with a
red ring) did. [From what I understand, these specimens labelled as "TYPE"
were labelled as such during WWII when the collection of the BMNH was
moved to other locations outside of London to avoid possible damage during
the bombing of London. A single specimen for each species was labelled as
"TYPE" to form a core of types to be located separately from the rest of
the collection--these were then rejoined with other syntypes after the
war, but the "Type" labels were not removed for all specimens.] In some of
these cases, the author NEVER intended to designate a lectotype, but was
merely stating what he/she saw in the collection--a "type". However, the
Code, as worded now, allows such statements to be interpreted as lectotype
designations. There is no wording to restrict such staments to allowing
only those in which a designation was INTENTIONAL.

In the cases of Dolichopodidae species referred to by Hardy & Kohn (1964)
with similar such stamteents as above, I asked Prof. Hardy whether he was
intending to designate any lectotypes in that "Insects of Hawaii" volume
for those dolichopodids. He told me he never intended to designate any
lectotypes in such a manner and was merely stating the existence of
specimens labelled as "Type" in the BMNH. (e.g., there are instances when
Hardy mentions "type in the BMNH" and later states "cotype in Paris".)

There are other cases such as this in other volumes of the Insects of Hawaii
and no doubt in many other publications.

By allowing this wording of this article (i.e., mere mention of the word
"type" will allow lectotypification), accidental lectotypes are then
designated from syntype series, when in fact the specimen in question may
not even be worthy of being designated a lectotype (not fitting the
description as well as another syntype--or even not fitting to the point
of being another species than the description delimits).

An amendment was sent to the Commission by Dr. David McAlpine a few years
ago to rectify this problem, but was never published in the Bulletin of
Zoological Nomenclature (even as being received!) and was (from my vague
recollection from third person knowledge) tabled at a discussion of
possible amendments to the Code at the Amsterdam meeting of the

I would recommend that the wording for this Article be changed back to
the wording in the 1961 Code to DIS-allow any potential of "accidental"
lectotypifications and requiring a definite statement of "lectotype" in
the designation wording by an author who thereby is INTENTIONALLY
designating a lectotype. Any questions regarding problems that may result
from this wording should then be referred to the Commission. I would
estimate that such problems will be exponentially less than the number of
those that have arisen WITH this Article 74b wording changed as such in
the 1985 Code.

Neal L. Evenhuis                     |  tel:   (808) 848-4138
Department of  Natural Sciences      |  fax:   (808) 847-8252
Bishop Museum,  P.O.Box 19000        |  email: neale at bishop.bishop.hawaii.org
Honolulu, Hawaii 96817-0916 USA      |
                        "Is there life before coffee?"

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