[Taxacom] Homo sapiens

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Jan 14 12:36:16 CST 2016

Hi Doug,

One issue with your interpretation that Linnaeus can serve as the Holotype: Holotypes must be designated within the original work (Art. 73.1.3). Linneaus neither stated nor implied in the original publication that the species-group taxon is based on a single specimen, so we cannot retroactively infer him as the holotype by monotypy (Art. 73.1.2).  The "ANY EVIDENCE" (your emphasis) component of Art. can only be used in the context of name-bearing types fixed subsequently. Thus, if we are to accept that Linnaeus included himself within H. sapiens sapiens (lacking blonde hair and blue eyes), then we can regard him as being part of the Type Series for that nominal species-group taxon. Note that there is no requirement that a "Type Series" consists of more than one specimen. There may be evidence that he examined and considered other bipedal homonids to be members of H. sapiens sapiens, or there may not such evidence.  But in any case, Linneaus the man can only be designated as the lectotype; not regarded as the holotype.

If you disagree, then the heterogeny of interpretations by Commissioners expands, as you predicted.  If you agree, then perhaps we can take a small step towards consensus.


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences | Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology | Dive Safety Officer
Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252 email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf
> Of Doug Yanega
> Sent: Thursday, January 14, 2016 7:36 AM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Homo sapiens
> 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 <http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted-
> sites/iczn/code/includes/page.jsp?nfv=&article=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 lectotype.
> 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
> holotype.
> I'm sure others will disagree, and likewise sure that this topic will come up
> again and again and again, never to be resolved.
> Sincerely,
> --
> 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)
>               http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>    "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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