|Publication Type:||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication:||2007|
|Authors:||Barrett, PM, Milner, AC|
|Journal:||Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature|
|Type of Article:||Comment|
|Full Text|| |
We write in support of Bock & Bühler’s proposal to set aside the holotype specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica von Meyer, 1861 and to conserve this name by designation of a neotype specimen BMNH 37001 (the ‘London specimen’), for the following reasons.
Firstly, the holotype specimen is a single feather preserved in part and counterpart (see Bühler & Bock, 2002). Although it could be argued that this could have been sufficiently diagnostic to form the basis for a new taxon at the time of description, as no other birds were then known from Mesozoic deposits and therefore the mere presence of feathers could have been used as a diagnostic character, new discoveries have rendered any potentially diagnostic features of this specimen obsolescent (sensu Wilson & Upchurch, 2003). These include the discoveries of spectacularly preserved Mesozoic birds and non-avian dinosaurs with very similar feathers from the Lower Cretaceous Jehol Biota of China (e.g. Chang et al., 2003): as a result, the presence of feathers alone can no longer be regarded as potentially diagnostic. Furthermore, these finds demonstrate that isolated feathers are not sufficiently distinct in terms of morphology to permit referral to any particular Mesozoic bird taxon. As a result, it is possible that the holotype specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica may not be referable to the same taxon as that represented by the skeletal specimens usually referred to this species. This is particularly important as some authorities contend that several bird species lived alongside A. lithographica in the Solnhofen environment on the basis of osteological evidence (e.g. Elzanowski, 2002).
Secondly, BMNH 37001 represents the first skeletal specimen to be discovered (Owen, 1863), so in terms of ‘priority’ could be regarded as the obvious choice of neotype specimen if the holotype feather is set aside. This choice is corroborated by von Meyer’s (1861) comment, noted by Elzanowski (2002), on hearing of the discovery of the first skeletal specimen that ‘Archaeopteryx lithographica is a name I deem appropriate for the designation of the animal’. On this basis, Elzanowski (2002) recommended that the London specimen should be recognised as the holotype.
Thirdly, BMNH 37001 has often been regarded as the type specimen in the past (e.g. Elzanowski, 2002), albeit mistakenly (see Bühler & Bock, 2002), so there is already precedence for nominating the London specimen as the neotype.
Fourthly, BMHH 37001 has habitually been referred to as Archaeopteryx lithographica in the literature (De Beer, 1954; Mayr et al., 2007) and has no other valid names associated with it. This is in contrast to some other specimens of Archaeopteryx, such as the ‘Berlin specimen’ (MB 1880/1881), which is currently designated as the type specimen of Archaeopteryx siemensii Dames, 1897. Similarly, several other bird specimens from Solnhofen (usually considered to be additional specimens of Archaeopteryx) also bear potentially valid names, including Archaeopteryx bavarica Wellnhofer, 1993, and Wellnhoferia grandis Elzanowski, 2001. Selection of BMNH 37001 as the neotype would therefore represent the simplest solution to issues of taxonomic priority that would arise if the holotype specimen were set aside.
In summary, setting aside the holotype feather in favour of a neotype skeleton with associated feather impressions (BMNH 37001) would finally stabilise the taxonomy of this species and would be entirely consistent with current and historical usage of the binomen Archaeopteryx lithographica.
Chang, M.-M., Chen, P.-J., Wang, Y.-Q. & Wang, Y. (Eds.). 2003. The Jehol Biota: the emergence of feathered dinosaurs, beaked birds and flowering plants.208 pp. Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers, Shanghai.
Dames, W. 1897. Über Brustbein, Schulter- und Beckengürtel der Archaeopteryx. Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1897: 818–834.
De Beer, G. 1954. Archaeopteryx lithographica. 68 pp. British Museum (Natural History), London.
Elzanowski, A. 2001. A new genus and species for the largest specimen ofArchaeopteryx. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 46: 519–532.
Elzanowski, A. 2002. Archaeopterygidae (Upper Jurassic of Germany). Pp. 129–159 in Chiappe, L.M. & Witmer, L.M. (Eds.), Mesozoic birds: above the heads of dinosaurs. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Mayr, G, Pohl, B., Hartman, S. & Peters, D.S. 2007. The tenth skeletal specimen of Archaeopteryx. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 149: 97–116.
Owen, R. 1863. On the Archaeopteryx of von Meyer, with a description of the fossil remains of a long-tailed species, from the lithographic limestone of Solenhofen. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 153: 33–47.
Von Meyer, H. 1861. Archaeopteryx lithographica (Vogel-Feder) und Pterodactylus von Solnhofen. Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Palaeontologie, 1861: 678–679.
Wellnhofer, P. 1993. Das siebte Exemplar von Archaeopteryx aus den Solnhofener Schichten. Archaeopteryx, 11: 1–47.
Wilson, J.A. & Upchurch, P. 2003. A revision of Titanosaurus Lydekker (Dinosauria—Sauropoda), the first dinosaur genus with a ‘Gondwanan’ distributrion. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 1: 125–160.
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Home » Comment on the proposed conservation of usage of Archaeopteryx lithographica von Meyer, 1861 (Aves) by designation of a neotype (Case 3390)
Comment on the proposed conservation of usage of Archaeopteryx lithographica von Meyer, 1861 (Aves) by designation of a neotype (Case 3390)