Type specimen of Homo sapiens (fwd)

David Heppell dh at NMS.AC.UK
Thu Jan 4 19:16:35 CST 1996


I took the liberty of forwarding the recent exchanges on the type
specimen of Homo sapiens to Philip Tubbs, the Executive Secretary of the
ICZN, for his comments.  You may like to see his authoritative reply
which, as he is not a subscriber to this list himself, he has asked me to
forward for him.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 96 14:19:40 GMT
From: pkt <pkt at nhm.ac.uk>
To: dh at nms.ac.uk
Subject: Homo sapiens

Dear David,
Thanks for forwarding the largely absurd H. sapiens correspondence! As you
say, it is far from universally realised that a nominal species does not
have to have a type specimen (or specimens), and it might be as well to
circulate the following on TAXACOM. Can you do this?
Thanks for sending New Year greetings - fully reciprocated!

  In the past few days several comments have been made on Taxacom about
the "type specimen" of the nominal species Homo sapiens Linnaeus, 1758.
I should like to contribute to this discussion, but only to point out
that, under the Code of Zoological Nomenclature, it is not
necessary for a species to have type specimen(s) fixed, either by the
original author or subsequently. In many, or most, cases it is of
course very desirable. All that is necessary is that a description of the
taxon (or, in the case of pre-1931 names, an illustration), or a reference
to such, be given by the original author [see Articles 12 and 13]. In the
case of H. sapiens a lengthy description was given by Linnaeus but no
"specimens" were mentioned (the famous remark "Nosce Te ipsum" - recognize
yourself - hardly qualifies!).

  The type series of a new nominal species consists [Art. 72b of the Code]
of all the specimens included in the species by the author. In the case
of H. sapiens this would be all persons living or dead (in 1758). Any
such specimen (syntype) can be designated as a lectotype [Art. 74], but
it cannot seriously be argued that "designations" of Carl Linnaeus
himself have been made for the only relevant scientific purpose, i.e. in
order to differentiate H. sapiens (modern man) from other hominids! Still
less scientific or valid are the "designations" of a "neotype" (such as E.
D. Cope, Raquel Welch(!) ...) which have been made. No designation of a
neotype for H. sapiens meets the requirements of Article 75 of the Code.

  In short, there is no name-bearing type specimen of H. sapiens.

Philip Tubbs
Executive Secretary, I.C.Z.N.
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
c/o The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW7 5BD

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