[Taxacom] Strepsirhini and Haplorhini (Catarrhini and Platyrrhini)

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Sat Apr 25 20:45:06 CDT 2009

 Dear All, 
      Strict priority can be a double-edged sword if you
believe in it too strongly (like strict cladism). It's not really
surprising that biologists long ago rejected strict priority for names
at ordinal level (and above), as well as allowing priority to be
circumvented at family level and below by conserving certain names and
rejecting others). 
      Otherwise, we might now be calling the whale genus
Mesoplodon by the long-forgotten names Nodus or Micropteron. We (Rice
and Kinman) had to get the International Commission to suppress those
two long-forgotten names because a prominent mammalogist (my boss at the
time) dug them up and thought priority was more important than
     As for Compositae, Cruciferae, etc., they are holdovers
that are useful to know, but they will eventually disappear. Not many
ornithologists still use old names like Tubinares, because they and the
ichthyologists decided long ago to standardize ordinal names for birds
and fish. Same with botanical orders. If only herpetologists and
mammalogists would do the same, although I wouldn't mandate typification
for those taxa (and the same for insect Orders). 
      ANYWAY, if a single "r" or a double "r" isn't "so important", then
why not simply follow authorities like W.C.O. Hill, and Walker's Mammals
of the World (and a majority of biologists) in using Strepsirhini to
match the spelling of the other Suborder Haplorhini?  I still think it
is the sensible solution if one isn't overly concerned about priority
where priority isn't even mandated.          
         ---------Ken Kinman

Michael Heads wrote:
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:
--- 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
  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
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
           -------Ken Kinman

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