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RE: When carnivores kill other carnivores...
Christopher Taylor" wrote:
Warning - pretty heavy waffling ahead. My supervisor made the
comment a couple of days ago that "Taxonomy seems to bring out the worst
You betcha. In this case, it's hard for us to know what Huene really had in
mind - unless I can get my hands on a ouija board and a reputable psychic.
Even then, it could take some time (A-L-T-I-...).
The first paragraph Tim has transcribed indicates that
Huene explicitly established the name _Altispinax_ in 1923 for
_Megalosaurus dunkeri_ (which is then the type species by monotypy).
Except that here Huene clearly goofed. He attached the name _Altispinax_ to
the vertebrae under the assumption that Lydekker had referred the dorsal
vertebrae to _Megalosaurus dunkeri_. Lydekker had done no such thing.
Huene's statement is therefore nonsensical:
"...the species described as _M. dunkeri_ by Lydekker (Dames), from the
English (and German) Early Wealden, is distinguished from _Megalosaurus_ by
its enormously high neural spines in the dorsal region. I therefore propose
to establish a new genus, _Altispinax_, for it". (Rauhut's translation of
I would infer from the above statement that Huene (1923) did not actually
designate a type specimen, because the species _Megalosaurus dunkeri_ was
not known from dorsal vertebrae. This opens the door to Article 70.3.
As Chris says, the "conditional" nature of the name _Altispinax comes up in
Huene's 1926 paper:
"...if it were certain that such dorsal vertebrae belong to _Megalosaurus
dunkeri_, it would be necessary to put it into a distinct genus, for which
the name _Altispinax_, gen. nov., might be reserved." (Rauhut's translation
of Huene .)
But then there's this, from Huene (1932), which is the first time Huene is
actually clear what material he is basing _Altispinax_ on:
"Three articulated dorsal vertebrae with very elongated neural spines,
figured by Owen (202, Pl. 19), also seem to belong here; ...In 1926 ..., I
based the genus _Altispinax_ on these specimens." (Rauhut's translation of
It is clear that Huene is (belatedly) pinning down the distinctive vertebrae
as the _Altispinax_ type specimen. Given that his 1923 paper attaches the
name to a non-existent specimen (no vertebrae were referred to _M. dunkeri_
by Lydekker), and his 1926 paper introduces the name _Altispinax_ as a
prospective name only (the "if" factor, as Chris puts it), one could make a
case that it is not until his 1932 paper that Huene is designating a type
specimen for _Altispinax_: the dorsals. Of course, there is no species name
designated - and this might pose problems for the validity of _Altispinax_
given that the genus was named in 1932 (see Mike's post about the ICZN's
This being the case, anything Huene may have said after 1923 is
Not unless the name _Altispinax_ was a nomen nudum in 1923 (and 1926), in
which case the name was not yet subject to ICZN rules.
The relevant article of the Code is
61.1.3: "Once fixed, name-bearing types are stable and provide objective
continuity in the application of names. Thus the name-bearing type of
any nominal taxon, once fixed in conformity with the provisions of the
Code, is not subject to change except in the case of nominal genus-group
taxa as provided in Article 70.3.2 [snip]"
Except in the case of _Altispinax_ there may not have been a "name-bearing
type" until 1932.
However, Article 70.3 is directly relevant to this case: "70.3.
Misidentified type species. If an author discovers that a type species
was misidentified ... the author may select, and thereby fix as type
species, the species that will, in his or her judgment, best serve
stability and universality, either
Aha!! Now we're talking.
Has this actually
happened (for instance, did George Olshevsky do so when he established
the genus _Becklespinax_)?
Olshevsky only transferred Paul's _Acrocanthosaurus altispinax_ to a new
genus (_Becklespinax_) erected solely for this purpose - given that the
former did not belong in the genus _Acrocanthosaurus_. It was an act of
nomenclatural bookkeeping, nothing more.