[Taxacom] Homo sapiens

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Thu Jan 14 11:36:27 CST 2016

On 1/14/16 8:46 AM, Michael Reuscher wrote:
> In Addition to Linnaeus not "expressly" excluding any "specimens" as types,
> Linnaeus does not fit his own description of Homo sapiens europaeus because
> this subspecies was described with "Pilis flavescentibus, prolixis. Oculis
> caeruleis" - meaning blonde hair and blue eyes. Linnaeus had brown hair and
> brown eyes. Therefore he was designated the "type specimen" of another
> subspecies: Homo sapiens sapiens.
I get such a kick out of this thread every time it crops up, because it 
seems impossible to put it to rest, as Mike Ivie noted. You line up 5 
ICZN Commissioners, you'll get 5 different opinions. To illustrate my 
point, I'll give a different answer from everyone else who has already 
posted, including 2 other Commissioners:

"*7**2.4.1.* The type series of a nominal species-group taxon consists 
of all the specimens included by the author in the new nominal taxon 
(whether directly or by bibliographic reference), except any that the 
author expressly excludes from the type series [Art. 72.4.6 
or refers to as distinct variants (e.g. by name, letter or number), or 
doubtfully attributes to the taxon.

** For a nominal species or subspecies established before 2000, 
any evidence, published or unpublished, may be taken into account to 
determine what specimens constitute the type series."

Given this definition of what constitutes the type series, (1) Linnaeus 
gave no indication as to any physical specimens whatsoever, for ANY of 
the variants of Homo sapiens, so there is nothing we can determine under 
72.4.1 - however, since allows us to retroactively use ANY 
EVIDENCE to determine the type series, we can, in fact, infer that at 
the very least, Linnaeus had ONE specimen that he MUST have examined 
when describing H. sapiens: himself. As such, I maintain that his 
remains can and should be interpreted as the holotype, rather than the 

The only "issue" I see here is that some people argue that every person 
Linnaeus ever met is a putative syntype (therefore Stearns' lectotype 
designation could be accepted), but I find the logic faulty: we do not 
consider every cat that Linnaeus saw in his lifetime, or every dog, or 
every horse, or every chicken, or every goat, or every pig, as members 
of the type series for those species. To me, one must limit the type 
series of H. sapiens to specimens we *know* he had available to him for 
examination when he was writing the description, for the same reason you 
would not simply and arbitrarily say that every dog Linnaeus ever saw 
was a syntype of Canis familiaris - *there is no such evidence*. If we 
have *no evidence* that he examined any other particular humans while 
writing his description, then his own person is all we know *beyond any 
doubt* that he had available, and a type series of one specimen equals a 

I'm sure others will disagree, and likewise sure that this topic will 
come up again and again and again, never to be resolved.


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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