[Taxacom] new whale genus name is preoccupied

Francisco Welter-Schultes fwelter at gwdg.de
Thu Jul 1 20:06:51 CDT 2010

I began this mail before having received Stephen's BHL mail, so I 
will send it now. 

It seems to me that the genus-group name Leviathan was correctly 
established by Koch in 1841 (not 1843 as the members of the cited 
blog suggested):

Koch, A. 1841. Description of missourium, or Missouri leviathan;
together with its supposed habits and Indian traditions concerning the
location from whence it was exhumed; also, comparisons of the whale,
crocodile and missourium with the leviathan, as described in the 41st
chapter of the book of Job. - pp. 3-20. Louisville. (Prentice &


p. 14 as Leviathan, type species Leviathan missourii Koch, 1841, 
established on the same page as Leviathan Missourii. Koch used the 
name as a scientific name in the same way as he used the name 

I found no alternate spellings in Koch's 1841 work. 

Sherborn (Index Animalium) has the following entries:

Levathan A. Koch, Descr. of Missourium, 1840 [1841], 13.-M.

Leviathan emend. Levathan ; A. Koch, Descr. of Missourium, ed. 2,
1841, 14.-M.

missuriensis Leviathan, A. C. Koch, Beschr. Missurium, 1844 (Magdeburg
ed.) [teste Engelmann, p. 596].

missourii Levathan, A. Koch, Descr. of Missourium, 1840 [1841], 13.

(-M. stands for Mammalia).

This suggests that there might have been another, previous 
publication by Koch with the same title, perhaps published in 1840. 
In that publication the name could have been mentioned on p. 13 as 
Levathan. But this is a speciulation and I have not seen such a 

The name Leviathan was indeed also mentioned on p. 13 of the 1841 
work, but at this occasion not as a scientific name. Only on p. 
14 the name Leviathan Missourii was given.

Since Sherborn gave p. 13 for the specific name missourii, it is 
possible that the 1841 source was a second edition. But I did not see 
anything in the digitized work itself that would point to it being a 
second edition.

I would expect that the name Leviathan has been used after 1899. 
Screening Google books seems to give some hits of modern historical 
sources where Leviathan was used as a name for the taxon described by 
Koch. I would also expect that if they used a name, then it would 
have been Leviathan and not Levathan. This would mean that Leviathan 
is in prevailing usage against an eventually correct original 
spelling Levathan, even if only 2 sources in the past 100 years used 
that name at all.

>From what I see now, the authors of the Nature paper produced a very 
cheap homonym - and they or at least Nature's reviewers could have 
seen that relatively easily.

University of Goettingen, Germany

More information about the Taxacom mailing list