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RE: Archaeopteryx London specimen made neotype by ICZN
I don't think the nature of "speaking German" has a thing to do with it. This
confusion has persisted regardless of apparent "clear designation" of what von
Meyer meant. They are still trying to piece out what is _meant_ and what is
_inferred_, given the craptascular lack of specifics in the paper, but what is
there is illuminating:
"As a supplement to my letter from the 15th of last month I can now tell you
that I have studied the feather from Solenhofen from all angles, and thereby I
arrived at the conclusion that it is a true fossil from the lithographic slate
and that it agrees completely with a bird’s feather. At the same time I
received news from Obergerichtsrat [a rank in the judiciary] Witte that an
almost complete skeleton of an animal covered in feathers had been found in the
lithographic slate. It shows several deviations from our living birds. The
feather which I studied I will publish with an exact illustration. For the
denomination of the animal I consider the term Archaeopteryx lithographica as
-- von Meyer, 1861, as translated by Kodolsky, 2007:
In this, I think Kodolsky has the right of it, and notes the extensive
ambiguities including but not limited to the editors' personally-written title
of the letter written by von Meyer, and the absolute lack of any reference to
the principles of the body fossil in the body of his work. It would not
actually matter if, later, von Meyer were to argue me _meant_ the feather to be
the fixed type.
"Already from the simple middle foot can be concluded that this animal does not
belong to the Pterodactyls, and the formation of the tail opposes the notion
which we have of birds; and yet the feathers cannot be distinguished from those
of birds. The fossil feather presented by me may come from a similar animal,
for which I have chosen the denomination Archaeopteryx lithographica (Jahrb.
für Mineral., 1861, p. 679)."
-- von Meyer, 1862, as translated by Kodolsky, 2007 (ibid.).
Note the object to which the phrase "for which I have chosen the
denomination" is the feather, not the "similar animal."
Let me translate this into modern [i.e., BAD] English by parable:
"So, dude, I heard about this specimen, but all I got is this feather. I
dunno, but I'll call that thing something and ignore the specimen. Sure, it's
been done. I hear they're doing it in the Old West of America all the time.
What, what do you mean I should wait to examine it first hand? I don't need to
care about whether or not they're the same species, you can't prove to me they
_aren't_! We all know all the crows across Europe are the same species, so this
is too! Ah, glad that's settled."
The assumption I get from von Meyer's statement is that he presumed both
specimens to be the same taxon, and that the messy issue of type fixation
wasn't even in force in the time he was doing this. One needed only state
provenance and principle charatcers, did not need to illustrate or photograph,
and one was only moderately tied to taste. The issue then is not what von Meyer
considered the type specimen, but _that_ he considered a type specimen, which I
aver he did not. Ergo, no type specimen was designated, and it has been assumed
since by presumption of the statement that von Meyer was fixated on the
feather, which he'd actually seen and described! Von Meyer most likely was
inspired to the name and structure following _hearing about_ the body fossil
but, sight unseen, he designated the whole under the umbrella of the name.
Badly translated German doesn't seem to be entering into this.
Jaime A. Headden
The Bite Stuff (site v2)
"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion
> Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2011 05:30:44 +0200
> From: email@example.com
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: Archaeopteryx London specimen made neotype by ICZN
> Am 26.10.2011 23:57, schrieb Jaime Headden:
> > It doesn't appear to be clear enough
> Not if you can't read German...