[Taxacom] Linnaeus' first insect = wrong question

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Tue Jan 29 10:20:19 CST 2008

Strictly speaking, a distinction should be made between describing a species 
and naming it. From a nomenclatural perspective all the NAMES in one of the 
startingpoint-works are equally old (indeed by definition). However, 
Linnaeus did not operate in a vacuum, and very many of the species that he 
named for the first time (nomenclaturally speaking) were already known to 
science and had been described by others.

The species that were first described by Linnaeus are a small subset of the 
species that he was the first to name.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "David Shorthouse" <dshorthouse at eol.org>
To: "'Thompson, Chris'" <Chris.Thompson at ARS.USDA.GOV>; 
<taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 4:41 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Linnaeus' first insect = wrong question

> Chris,
> Indeed, it was a dumbly phrased question because there was no context. I
> wasn't interested in the "first" insect to be described...they are all
> "firsts" by definition...and nor am I interested in telling stories to the
> public (at this stage). Rather, I was interested in the first insect to
> appear on the pages in Systema naturae because I want to come up with a
> clever though somewhat obtuse name for a piece of work.
> Thanks,
> David P. Shorthouse
> --------------------------
> Encyclopedia of Life - WorkBench
> Woods Hole, MA
> 508-289-7493
> dshorthouse at eol.org
> http://www.eol.org
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Thompson, Chris [mailto:Chris.Thompson at ARS.USDA.GOV]
>> Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 8:29 AM
>> To: Shorthouse, David; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>> Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Linnaeus' first insect = wrong question
>> David:
>> The problem is WHAT is your definition of Linnaeus' first insect?
>> In Systema Naturae, 10th Edition, the official start of Zoological
>> Nomenclature, Linnaeus has 191 species of flies.
>> So, which is the FIRST fly?
>> To me that is a dumb question as they are ALL FIRST by definition. What
>> the public needs to know is that Linnaeus was aware of many different
>> kinds of flies. So ...
>> What is more important are the kinds of flies that Linnaeus knew.
>> The most curious in respect to history, is Musca cellaris, described on
>> page 597. Today this name is forgotten due to the fear of geneticists
>> who don't want to recognize the fact that Linnaeus knew Drosophila
>> melanogaster (Meigen 1830). Linneaus loved wine and beer, and described
>> the little flies which are attracted to fermented fruits as Musca
>> cellaris, the fly of the wine cellars. Later Kirby and Spence put this
>> species in its own genus, Oinopota (from the Greek for wine drinker).
>> So
>> by the Official rules of Nomenclature (ICZN) Linnaeus never knew
>> Drosophila nor the species was unknown to the authors of the first text
>> in Entomology. But ...
>> I think it is these kinds of stories that the public will like more
>> than
>> just an arbitrarily declaring that Linnaeus' first fly was Oestrus
>> bovis
>> (cattle bot) simply because it is the first fly listed in Systema
>> Naturae (page 584).
>> For the record, the first insect listed in Systema Naturae, 10th
>> Edition, is Scarabaeus Hercules (Hercules Beetle) on page 345.
>> F. Christian Thompson
>> Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
>> c/o Smithsonian Institution MRC-0169
>> PO Box 37012
>> Washington, D. C. 20013-7012
>> (202) 382-1800 voice
>> (202) 786-9422 fax
>> www.diptera.org Diptera Website
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