[Taxacom] Strepsirhini and Haplorhini (Catarrhini and Platyrrhini)

Michael Heads michael.heads at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 25 15:58:00 CDT 2009

Dear colleagues,
One biologist named a group Strepsirrhini and later another biologist named another group Haplorhini. Why change these original spellings? Where is the confusion? None – it’s all been caused later on by people trying to ‘correct’ the published names. If the ‘meddlers’, ‘Greek scholars’ etc. had just left it alone and accepted the principle of priority, a century on we wouldn’t have two spellings for strepsirrhines and still be arguing about it. One ‘r’ or two ‘r’s’ in one name isn’t so important, but the principle of priority is.
   Another example of confusion caused by ignoring priority is in the plant family names. Several of the most common families (like strepsirrhines) now have two names. Students in Ghana, Fiji, Kalamazoo etc. have enough trouble learning one name for Compositae, Leguminosae, Guttiferae, Cruciferae, Labiatae etc., now they have to learn two, because both are widespread. Standard references (e.g. Panero & Funk 2002) now refer to ‘Compositae (Asteraceae)’. It’s a disaster! It was caused by some bright spark in the 1970s who decided that the old-fashioned family names with  ‘untidy’ endings had to be ‘corrected’, ignored priority, and didn’t understand (or care) that the old names would persist. An equivalent would be if some bureaucratic chemist decided that the names of all the elements had to end in –ium.       

Michael Heads

Wellington, New Zealand.

My papers on biogeography are at the Buffalo Museum website: www.sciencebuff.org/research/current-research-activities/john-grehan/evolutionary-biography/panbiogeographic-publications/heads-publications/

--- On Sun, 4/26/09, Kenneth Kinman <kennethkinman at webtv.net> wrote:

From: Kenneth Kinman <kennethkinman at webtv.net>
Subject: [Taxacom] Strepsirhini and Haplorhini (Catarrhini and Platyrrhini)
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Date: Sunday, April 26, 2009, 4:35 AM

Dear All,
     I have studied this further, and I have concluded that a majority
of biologists follow the usage of W.C.O. Hill in his 8-Volume "Primates,
Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy".  That usage is followed by Walker's
Mammals of the World and a majority of the scientific literature.   
      This usage spells both of the Suborders with a single "r":
STREPSIRHINI and HAPLORHINI.  This makes sense, even though Strepsirhini
was originally spelled with a double "r".  I think Hill probably
realized that Strepsirhini was the more proper Greek and Latin spelling,
and that the two suborder names should be formed in the same way.             
      Hill, Walker, and most others spell the infraorders with a double
"r": CATARRHINI and PLATYRRHINI.  This is how they were originally
spelled, so it shouldn't be controversial (even though Charles Darwin
seems to have preferred the single "r" spelling for these as well). I
actually considered following Darwin, and using a single "r" spelling
for all four names.  However, that would be too destabilizing, and it
seems preferable to continue the 20th Century usage.
           -------Ken Kinman


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