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Fwd: A name for Archaeopteryx (Was: Re: Requiem for Diatryma: An SVPCA Epilog...

Ilja intended to post this to the entire dinosaur list but somehow it was 
sent only to me. I'll shortly post my reply to this as well.
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From: <Dinogeorge@aol.com>

> In a message dated 9/22/99 2:33:10 PM EST, nieuwlnd@let.rug.nl writes:
> << Well, _Griphosaurus_ (sine species) Wagner 1861, really. Or probably
>  correctly _Archaeopteryx macrura_ Owen 1863. _Griphosaurus problematicus_
>  was attributed later. >>
> Yes, the _problematicus_ was added by Woodward, 1862, but still predates
> Owen, 1863.

I think not; Woodward's publication was a prequel to Owen's description, and
he used _Griphornis (not Griphosaurus) longicaudatus_ in the caption of an
accompanying lithograph, but not in the text itself. This is what Gavin de
Beer (1954) had to say about it:

"lt is not clear what was the origin of the trivial name probtematicus which
Henry Woodward added to the generic name Griphosaurus (spelled by Lambrecht
Gryphosaurus), and ascribed to Wagner. lt was not given by Wagner in the
paper under reference but first appears in the legend to a plate
accompanying Woodward's paper "On a feathered fossil from the lithographic
limestone of Solenhofen", published in The Intellectual Observer, volume 2,
for December 1862. Woodward stated that the specimen which had recently been
acquired by the British Museum would shortly "be described by Professor Owen
before the Royal Society, under the name of Griphornis longicaudatus, who
thus indicated his conviction that it is a bird". But a footnote adds that
"Professor Owen decided at tile last moment to retain the name
The plate accompanying Woodward's paper is peculiar. lt represents the
British Museum specimen and the legend beneath it reads:

Archaeopteryx lithographica. H. von Meyer. Jahrbuch für Mineral: 30 Sept.
Griphosaurus problematicus. A. Wagner. 1861, Sitzung. der Münchner Akad. der
Griphornis longicaudatus. Owen. Nov. 1862, Trans.: Royal Society.

The first of these names is correctly given and provides further
confirmation that Von Meyer meant this name to be applied to the British
Museum specimen. The second name was incorrectly given since Wagner did not
publish the trivial name problematicus. The third name is also incorrect
since, as explained above, Owen changed his mind and abandoned Griphornis.
Furthermore, the date of the reference is incorrect since Owen's paper in
die Philosophical Transactions was not published until 1863. No significance
can therefore be ascribed to the legend under the plate accompanying
Woodward's paper as regard the priority of the names there given".

I have posted the entire text of De Beer's discussion of the _Archaeopteryx_
name issue in my Archie source book at

De Beer's approach is decidedly apologetic and conservative, and he either
takes certain liberties in his interpretation of Von Meyer or doesn't
understand German very well. This is the proper chronology as far as I'm

Pterodactylus crassipes (Von Meyer 1857; nomen oblitum)
Archaeopteryx lithographica (Von Meyer 1861; solitary feather)
Griphosaurus (s.s.) (Wagner 1861)
Griphornis problematicus? (Woodward 1862)
Archaeopteryx macrura (Owen 1862)
Griphosaurus longicaudatus? (Owen 1862)
Archaeopteryx siemensi (Berlin specimen; Dames 1897)
Archaeornis siemensi (Berlin specimen; Petronievics 1917)
Archaeopteryx oweni (Petronievics 1921)
Archaeopteryx lithographica (Nopcsa 1927)

The main question is whether Von Meyer's attribution of _A. lithographica_
to the feather is either intended or valid (since he hadn't seen the
specimen, only heard vague rumours about it). The ICZN decided to uphold the
name in 1964, though, although strictly speaking Owen's name _A. macrura_
should stand.


Ilja Nieuwland

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