[Taxacom] Type specimen
stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon May 20 17:39:00 CDT 2013
OK, finally Francisco has explained his argument clearly enough to understand it! Or at least one line of it, as there appear to be two interwoven strands. This line of argument effectively says that Linnaeus *didn't* partition Homo sapiens into named variants, it left some material unassigned - material which therefore is eligible to be type material for the nominal species. Specifically, this line of argument seems to claim that although Linnaeus was himself from Europe, he is not to be understood as a member of Homo sapiens europaeus, according to Linnaeus' classification, because he does not agree with the morphological description. Rather, Linnaeus was a "typical" Homo sapiens, living in Europe, within the range of H. sapiens europaeus! So, it is argued, Linnaeus himself is eligible for lectotype designation.
Sorry, I don't buy it! If we actually look at the original description of Homo sapiens (and the genus Homo), it has the following structure:
Homo new genus
1. Homo sapiens new species [diurnally active, refers to mankind]
1.0.? named variety ferus? [if not intended to be a named variety, then perhaps Linnaeus intended the name Homo sapiens only to refer to humans "living wild", in which case he would have excluded himself from the nominal species??!!]
1.1. named variety americanus
1.2. named variety europaeus
1.3. named variety asiaticus
1.4 named variety afer
1.5 named variety monstrosus
2. Homo troglodytes new species [a nocturnal ape, possibly referring to the orangutan?]
My only conclusion is that trying to "shoe horn" this complexity into a post-Linnean Code governed system of nomenclature is pointless! It is trying to force square pegs through round holes! However, there is no problem, since the name Homo sapiens is universally agreed upon to refer to one particular species. We should just continue to use the name for our species and ignore the above complexity. The Code cannot be applied to this case, because it is a classic example of a problem case, which is just too vague and unclear to make any real sense of. There is no need for a type specimen of type series, so we should not be forcing post hoc interpretations of Linnaeus to try to allow for the possibility of types under the Code. Only the Commission could designate a type for Homo sapiens, under its plenary powers, but there is no need to do so...
From: Francisco Welter-Schultes <fwelter at gwdg.de>
To: Paul van Rijckevorsel <dipteryx at freeler.nl>
Cc: taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, 21 May 2013 1:11 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Type specimen
Once again, I agree absolutely with Commissioner Thomas Pape and with the
interpretation given on the ICZN website in this issue.
The term "variants" refers to subspecies, varieties or infrasubspecific
entities. There can also be variants of noninterrupted variability or
polymorphism. The term covers everything that is distinct and works as the
equivalent of "doubtfully included" rule concerning type species in the
Yes, it would be good to have this term explained in the Glossary. Any
suggestions for a good wording? Thomas?
Back to Stephen's concerns.
Linnaeus established Homo sapiens and included various taxa at subspecific
rank: H. sapiens sapiens, H. sapiens europaeus, H. sapiens americanus and
others. It was not necessary that Linnaeus stated explicitly that H.
sapiens sapiens was a variety or subspecies carrying this rank, because
Linnaeus gave a description for H. sapiens, so the subspecific rank H.
sapiens sapiens was automatically covered by the Principle of Coordination
I agree with Stephen that Linnaeus subdivided H. sapiens into distinct
variants (Paul: instead of variants we can say subspecies in this special
case) which had their own types, but I clearly do not agree with his
argument that H. sapiens sapiens did not belong to these variants.
The specimens that were meant to belong to H. sapiens europaeus and H.
sapiens americanus were not meant to belong to H. sapiens sapiens. These
specimens were excluded from belonging to H. sapiens sapiens by Art.
I think Stephen's great misunderstanding consists in that H. sapiens
europaeus would cover all Europeans, including Linné himself. This has
already been explained in a previous mail here, a few days ago. Such an
interpretation would not be covered by the Latin descriptions. H. sapiens
europaeus covered only a few Europeans, but not all. The other Europeans,
which did not fit the description of H. sapiens europaeus (because they
did not have these very special morphological features), were meant to
belong to H. sapiens sapiens. Among those was Linné himself. Linné himself
did clearly not belong to H. sapiens europaeus.
As to the Aus xus example given by Thomas: there is a real-life equivalent
in European molluscs for that case, more than half a dozen well-known
European molluscs have this problem. Malacologists are fighting a
permanent dispute, usually not on the names, but on the authorships and
dates of these species. Examples are Caracollina lenticula, Elona
quimperiana, Xerocrassa cretica. I belong to those who agree with Thomas
Pape's interpretation of the Code. As said in a previous message a few
days ago here, I have left a note in 2008 in Gary's ICZN-Wiki to fix this
problem in the next edition of the Code. Exactly in the sense of the
interpretation outlined by Thomas in his previous message in this thread.
> From: "Thomas Pape" <TPape at snm.ku.dk>
> Sent: Monday, May 20, 2013 12:22 AM
>> Another part of you argument is tied to Article 72.4.1 and the statement
>> that the type series of a nominal species-group taxon excludes any
>> specimens "that the author [...] refers to as distinct variants".
> What does the word "variant" mean here? (it is not in the Glossary);
> if it means "subspecies" (and/or "variety") then Stephen Thorpe's
> interpretation would seem to be right, unless "refers to as distinct
> variants" means something different from "refers to distinct variants"
> (i.e. a specimen-is-a variant versus a specimen-belongs-to-a-variant)?
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