A botanist asks: type specimen for Homo sapiens?

Gary Rosenberg rosenberg at ACNATSCI.ORG
Wed Jun 16 13:30:19 CDT 2004

This subject surfaces every couple of years, but the answer has evolved a bit. Mary Petersen has supplied the first occurrence on Taxacom, from January 1995.

The popular press has gotten involved, although some of the quotations in the following are not accurate: <http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/features/20031015-9999_1c15type.html>.

On Taxacom, January 5, 1996, I noted that Linnaeus's phrase "Homo nosce Te ipsum" pertains to the genus Homo, not to the species ^Homo sapiens^  and on the ICZN list on April 10, 2003, I post the following, which disproves the lectotype designation:

"There is an interesting twist to the Linnaean 'subspecies' of Homo sapiens. As Chris pointed out, Linnaeus (1758, p. 20-22) listed five varieties/subspecies under Homo sapiens. However, before these varieties he described wild or savage "ferus" Homo sapiens as "tetrapus, mutus, hirsutus", with several illustrations or examples cited. After each example, I have added in brackets information from Seguin (1907, Idiocy: and its Treatment by the Physiological Method) taken from http://www.disabilitymuseum.org/lib/docs/1531.htm?page=3 
"Juvenis Lupinus Hessensis. 1344. [1544, A young man found in Hesse among wolves.]
Juvenis Ursinus Lithuanus. 1661. [A young man found among bears in Lithuania.] 
Juvenis Ovinus Hibernus. Tulp. Obs. IV. [A young man found among wild sheep in Ireland.]
Juvenis Hannoverianus. [1724, A young man found in Hanover.]
Pueri 2 Pyrenaici. 1719. [Two boys found in the Pyrenees.]
Johannes Leodisensis. [Boerhaave. John of Liege.]

"Article 72.4.1 of the Code excludes from the type series of a nominal species-group taxon specimens referred to as distinct variants. This means that specimens of Homo sapiens americanus, europaeus, asiaticus, afer, and monstrosus are not part of the type series of Homo sapiens and that Linnaeus is not eligible to be the lectotype (as designated by W. T. Stearn. 1959. Systematic Zoology 8:4). We are thus left to select from among village idiots the lectotype for humankind."

Gary Rosenberg
Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia

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