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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:
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.