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Re: Archaeopteryx London specimen made neotype by ICZN



Am 27.10.2011 06:19, schrieb Jaime Headden:

 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:

 "[...] At the same time I received news [...] 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 appropriate’." -- von Meyer, 1861, as
 translated by Kodolsky, 2007:

http://iczn.org/content/comment-proposed-conservation-usage-archaeopteryx-lithographica-von-meyer-1861-aves-designa-0

As far as I can tell, the "the animal" part of the last sentence refers to the "almost complete skeleton of an animal". The second-to-last sentence changes the topic back to the feather, and the last sentence contrasts the feather with "the animal". But see below.

Now, is the original German available anywhere? My memory is not photographic.

 "Already from the simple middle foot

Metatarsus. Called Mittelfuß, "middle foot", in not too technical contexts in German.

 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."

In this English translation at least, the object unambiguously is the "similar animal" -- an animal similar to the London specimen, not the London specimen itself. This looks like von Meyer used a _hypothetical_ type specimen, if any at all. In that case, obviously, I've been wrong for years, "the animal" in the quote at the top of this message refers to the species, not to any particular specimen, and the ICZN Opinion was necessary, even though the feather most definitely wasn't intended as the type specimen.

In the original German, "which" would take the feminine form to agree with "feather" or the neuter one to agree with "animal".

 The assumption I get from von Meyer's statement is that he presumed
 both specimens to be the same taxon,

Likely.

 and that the messy issue of type fixation wasn't even in force in the
 time he was doing this.

Definitely! If published today, von Meyer (1861) would be considered to erect a nomen nudum.

 One needed only state provenance and principle charatcers, did not
 need to illustrate or photograph, and one was only moderately tied to
 taste.

Very well said.

 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.

I now tend to agree.