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Re: Linnaeus's elephant type specimen mix-up



> 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

Wow, I didn't know Nature employed such unqualified journalists. "Archetype"? 
What the vertical gene transfer.

It's very important to note here that the concept of type specimens did not yet 
exist in the times of Linnaeus. The specimen in question is one he may have 
based part of the description on, but that's it.

First paragraph of the introduction of the actual paper:

"The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN; 1999) establishes the 
starting date for zoological nomenclature as 1 January 1758, the year when 
Edition 10 of the Systema Naturae of Carl Linnaeus (1758) was published. 
References cited by Linnaeus form an integral part of the description of his 
species, and material that the descriptions and/or illustrations of the cited 
authors were based on is considered syntypic (forming part of the name-bearing 
type series), whether or not it was examined by Linnaeus and whether or not it 
still exists (ICZN Article 72.4.1). Thus, both Linnaeus' own specimens and 
descriptions, as well as those of the earlier authors he cited, are of equal 
status for zoological nomenclature. Like his predecessors, Linnaeus (1758) did 
not distinguish between Asian and African elephants. Amongst the authors he 
cited in his description of Elephas maximus, the figure in Gesner (1551), 
reproduced in Aldrovandi (1616), very likely represents an African elephant, 
whereas figures in Jonston (1650), pls 7–9 show an Asian elephant (Supporting 
Information S1), thus suggesting that E. maximus might have a composite type 
series. The African elephant was established as two separate species later: 
Elephas africanus Blumenbach, 1797 (currently Loxodonta africana) and Elephas 
cyclotis Matschie, 1900 (currently Loxodonta cyclotis)."

Note the mention of a syntype series as opposed to a single holotype. 
Cappellini et al. go on to choose a lectotype from this syntype series; the 
other former syntypes become paralectotypes, except for the specimen in 
question, which is excluded from the type series. These acts are allowed to be 
done without a decision by the International Commission on Zoological 
Nomenclature; that's why Cappellini et al. just go ahead and do it.