[Taxacom] Type specimens of Homo sapiens

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Fri May 17 20:32:53 CDT 2013

On 5/17/13 6:26 PM, Chris Thompson wrote:
> Sorry, Doug,
> First, do examine the original description of Homo sapiens in Linnaeus 
> (1758, Systema Naturae, page 20-24) and you will see some references 
> to other works and you will see that he describes FIVE different 
> variations of his species.
None of the specimens attributed to variants are eligible to be part of 
the type series for sapiens sapiens. Here is David Notton's detailed 
summary, from teh ICZN FAQ page:

" In Linnaeus' 10th edition of Systema Naturae 
<http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/542> (Linnaeus, 1758) 
which is taken to be the starting point of zoological nomenclature, he 
described /Homo sapiens /including 6 named subgroups, i.e. ferus, 
americanus, europaeus, asiaticus, afer and monstrosus. Ferus and 
monstrosus are infrasubspecific because the content of the description 
shows that ferus is used for feral children, those found in the wild, 
differing only as a consequence of their upbringing, and monstrosus is 
used for a mix of unrelated forms (part a) and people with modifications 
of the body due to human artifice (part b). Consequently ferus and 
monstrosus are not available names and do not enter into zoological 
nomenclature. This leaves as available names americanus, europaeus, 
asiaticus, and afer, which are subspecific names of /Homo sapiens/ 
(Article 45.6 
Also from the principle of coordination there must be a subspecific name 
sapiens, and the type of/Homo sapiens/ is by definition the type of the 
subspecies /Homo sapiens sapiens/ (Article 43 

Linnaeus did not designate a type for /Homo sapiens/ or any of its 
nominal subspecies -  that was not the custom then. However, the type 
series consists of all the specimens he included (Article 72.4 
according to the characters given in his descriptions. The description 
of /Homo sapiens/ is drawn broadly; it spreads over five pages, starting 
³1. H[omo] diurnus; varians cultura, loco.² Then describing the 6 
subgroups, continuing with the general description from the end of the 
description of monstrosus to page 24, from ³Habitat inter TropicosŠ² 
to ³Pedes Talis incedentes². The description for /Homo sapiens 
sapiens/ is all the parts of the description that do not include the 
named subgroups and similarly the type material is all those specimens 
included by Linnaeus, not including those referred to under the named 
subgroups (Article 72.4.1 

It is certain that Linnaeus was present when he wrote this description 
and that he regarded himself as included in /Homo sapiens/. That he is 
not part of any of his subgroups is clear from the descriptions, in 
particular he is certainly not part of /Homo sapiens europaeus/ since 
this subspecies is described as 'Pilis flavescentibus, prolixis. Oculis 
caeruleis' whereas Linnaeus has brown hair and eyes (Tullberg, 1907). He 
is therefore included in the type series of /Homo sapiens sapiens/ 

The only point of dispute between myself and Notton is that the Code 
SPECIFICALLY says "included by" rather than "examined by", which means 
it is irrelevant whether or not Linnaeus ever examined his wife; unless 
Linnaeus included her in the type series, she is not eligible to be a 

Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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