[Taxacom] Homo sapiens

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Jan 15 14:35:02 CST 2016

It seems to be a hard thing for some taxonomists and nomenclaturalists to grasp, but the reality is that some named taxa just don't have well defined type details, due to some sort of vagueness and/or ambiguity. If their identity is nevertheless clear, then they don't need types, so there isn't a problem. One example is Homo sapiens. A more recent example is Pselaphotheseus ihupuku, which had two different specimens both designated as holotype in the original reference!


On Sat, 16/1/16, Laurent Raty <l.raty at skynet.be> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Homo sapiens
 To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
 Received: Saturday, 16 January, 2016, 6:14 AM
 > Evidence to the contrary would be much
 easier to find (e.g., if the
 > original
 description includes characters not represented in
 > himself).
 - The very first line of the species
 descriptions states explicitly that 
 sapiens is variable (with culture and location). A single
 cannot be variable, hence the
 concept that Linnaeus had in mind at that 
 point can only have been based on a series.
 - On p.23 (http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/25033815
 -- which, again, 
 is about the whole
 species and outside the description of any variant; 
 indentations make this clearer in the 12th ed.:
 ; but this is obvious from 
 the content
 of the text in the 10th ed. as well), two types of genitalia
 are described, one of which ("s. Vulva
 gibba, compressiuscula": "or with 
 a gibbous, slightly compressed vulva")
 presumably departed from those of 
 On p.24 (http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/25033816
 ), the 
 description refers to multiple
 males ("maribusque": dative plural of 
 "mas" + conjunction "-que")
 with a hairy chin, and multiple females 
 ("feminis": dative plural of
 "femina") with nymphae (=inner labia), a 
 clitoris and two pectoral mammae, which again
 presumably didn't fit 
 Linnaeus' own
 morphology. Hence the concept he had in mind must have 
 been based on a series that included
 individuals of both sexes.
 (That being said: ambiguities might arguably
 (?) remain, if it is 
 assumed that
 Linnaeus' description encompassed the variants he
 in the species (which seems
 likely), and if what we are after is 
 evidence that he included more than one
 specimen in the species, with 
 variants excluded.)
 Wouldn't assuming a "holotype by
 default", in the absence of a 
 designation, and in a situation making it (even
 remotely) possible that 
 the taxon was based
 on more than a single specimen, always be in 
 "violation" of Recommendation 73F
 (which 73.1.2 points to)?
 Laurent -
 01/15/2016 09:02 AM, Richard Pyle wrote:
 > Hi Doug,
 Well, that depends.  My read of 73.1.2 is that evidence
 outside the
 > original work may be used
 to “help IDENTIFY the specimen”, but that
 > doesn’t contradict the fact that the
 original work itself must either
 > state
 or imply that the nominal species-group taxon is based on
 > single specimen. As Linnaeus 1758
 does neither, there is no need to
 “identify” a stated or implied single specimen that
 represents a
 > holotype by monotypy. 
 Now, even if we assume that the second
 sentence of Art. 73.1.2 contradicts the first sentence, in
 that it
 > allows for evidence outside the
 original publication to IMPLY (can’t
 really “state”) that H. sapiens sapiens represents a
 taxon based on a
 > single specimen, we
 still would need to find some evidence that
 > Linneaus based that nominal species-group
 name on a single specimen.
 > Evidence to
 the contrary would be much easier to find (e.g., if the
 > original description includes characters
 not represented in Linnaeus
 > himself).
 So either way – even with an unrealistically liberal
 > interpretation of Art 73.1.2 – I see no
 way to establish a holotype
 > by
 > That said, I agree
 this is little more than an intellectual game from
 > which Code-nerds like ourselves derive
 pleasure in playing.
 In any case, it seems your original premise is likely
 correct after
 > all. Have we received
 input from five Commissioners yet? :-)
 > Aloha,
 > Rich
 > From: Doug Yanega
 [mailto:dyanega at ucr.edu]
 Sent: Thursday, January
 > 14, 2016 9:21
 AM To: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org;
 > taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Homo sapiens
 On 1/14/16 10:36 AM, Richard Pyle wrote:
 > 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
 Actually, that's not true: 73.1.2 explicitly
 > and says that
 external evidence CAN be used to subsequently
 > identify the holotype:
 > " 73.1.2. If the
 nominal species-group taxon is based on a single
 > specimen, either so stated or implied in
 the original publication,
 > that specimen
 is the holotype fixed by monotypy (see Recommendation
 > 73F
 > <http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted-sites/iczn/code/includes/page.jsp?nfv=&article=73#rec73F>
 > ). If the taxon was established before
 2000 evidence derived from
 > outside the
 work itself may be taken into account [Art.
 > <http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted-sites/iczn/code/includes/page.jsp?nfv=&article=72#4.1.1>
 > ] to help identify the specimen."
 > I was applying the
 "holotype by implicit monotypy" argument in
 > case, as you note, and I read this
 Article as supporting that
 interpretation. Like I said, if you can't positively
 identify any
 > syntypes, and none were
 mentioned, then it IS implied (to me) that
 > the species was based on one specimen,
 which therefore is the
 > holotype by
 default under 73.1.2. Mike Ivie objects to the fact that
 > Linnaeus' physical corpus is
 effectively lost, but since we can't
 > legally designate a neotype, that's
 irrelevant - lots of species have
 > lost
 types that can't be replaced until and unless there
 comes to be
 > a serious dispute about the
 taxon's identity.
 > How many syntypes can dance on the head of
 a pin? ;-)
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