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Re: Linnaeus's elephant type specimen mix-up

From: Ben Creisler

Here's the formal article designating a new lectotype specimen for
Elephas maximus:

Enrico Cappellini, Anthea Gentry, Eleftheria Palkopoulou, Yasuko
Ishida, David Cram, Anna-Marie Roos, Mick Watson, Ulf S. Johansson, Bo
Fernholm, Paolo Agnelli, Fausto Barbagli, D. Tim J. Littlewood,
Christian D. Kelstrup, Jesper V. Olsen, Adrian M. Lister, Alfred L.
Roca, Love Dalén and M. Thomas P. Gilbert (2013)
Resolution of the type material of the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus
Linnaeus, 1758 (Proboscidea, Elephantidae).
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1111/zoj.12084

The understanding of Earth's biodiversity depends critically on the
accurate identification and nomenclature of species. Many species were
described centuries ago, and in a surprising number of cases their
nomenclature or type material remain unclear or inconsistent. A prime
example is provided by Elephas maximus, one of the most iconic and
well-known mammalian species, described and named by Linnaeus (1758)
and today designating the Asian elephant. We used morphological,
ancient DNA (aDNA), and high-throughput ancient proteomic analyses to
demonstrate that a widely discussed syntype specimen of E. maximus, a
complete foetus preserved in ethanol, is actually an African elephant,
genus Loxodonta. We further discovered that an additional E. maximus
syntype, mentioned in a description by John Ray (1693) cited by
Linnaeus, has been preserved as an almost complete skeleton at the
Natural History Museum of the University of Florence. Having confirmed
its identity as an Asian elephant through both morphological and
ancient DNA analyses, we designate this specimen as the lectotype of
E. maximus. The mass spectrometry proteomics data have been deposited
in the ProteomeXchange Consortium with the data set identifier

On Mon, Nov 4, 2013 at 8:34 AM, Ben Creisler <bcreisler@gmail.com> wrote:
> From: Ben Creisler
> bcreisler@gmail.com
> Not exactly paleo-related but an interesting historical issue in
> zoology. A check of Linnaeus's original type specimen for the Indian
> elephant (Elephas maximus) shows it is actually a specimen of the
> African elephant (Loxodonta africana). The type specimens need to be
> revised. Here's a link to the online article with a podcast:
> http://www.nature.com/news/linnaeus-s-asian-elephant-was-wrong-species-1.14063