Comments on the proposed conservation of usage of Testudo gigantea Schweigger, 1812 (currently Geochelone (Aldabrachelys) gigantea; Reptilia, Testudines) 16

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2009
Authors:D. Hansen
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Start Page:279
Date Published:09/2009
Type of Article:Comment
Full Text

I write to voice my strong support of the petition by Frazier (Case 3463) to conserve the usage of Testudo gigantea Schweigger, 1812 (and thus, by default, Aldabrachelys) for the Aldabra giant tortoise. As a conservation ecologist working with these tortoises on other islands in the Western Indian Ocean, it has been frustrating, to say the least, to have to sift through the nomenclatural chaos surrounding the Aldabra giant tortoise. Together with my collaborators, I consistently use Aldabrachelys gigantea (see, for example, additional references below) as the best available name: ‘gigantea’ because it has been used in the majority of peer-reviewed scientific papers dealing with the Aldabra giant tortoise in the last five decades, and ‘Aldabrachelys’ because the genus Geochelone is obviously rampantly polyphyletic, and will likely cease to exist in its present form within very few years indeed. I have refrained from using either Dipsochelys or dussumieri as I found these to have been promoted only recently, by very few authors, and often in non-peer-reviewed herpetological books, or journals with a local focus. To me, the most parsimonious solution to the current mess is to accept Frazier’s (2006) designation of a neotype to once and for all fix the name that fits the tortoise best. I cannot agree with Gerlach’s (BZN 66: 185–186) discourse that ‘Aldabrachelys’ is an inappropriate name: after all we think of this animal as the ‘Aldabra giant tortoise’, and not ‘Dussumier’s thirsty tortoise’.

Additional references
Hansen, D.M., Kaiser, C.N. & Müller, C.B. 2008. Seed dispersal and establishment of endangered plants on oceanic islands: The Janzen-Connell Model, and the use of ecological analogues. PLoS ONE, 3(5): e2111. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002111. (accessed 17 July 2009).
Kaiser-Bunbury, C.N., Traveset, A. & Hansen, D.M. (in press). Conservation and restoration of plant-animal mutualisms on oceanic islands. Perspectives in Plant Ecology Evolution and Systematics.
Griffiths, C.J., Jones, C.G. Hansen, D.M., Puttoo, M., Tatayah, R.V., Müller, C.B. & Harris, S. (in press). The use of extant non-indigenous tortoises to replace extinct ecosystem engineers: a restoration tool. Restoration Ecology.

Taxonomic Group(s): 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith