Comments on the proposed conservation of usage of Testudo gigantea Schweigger, 1812 (currently Geochelone (Aldabrachelys) gigantea; Reptilia, Testudines) 27

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2009
Authors:J. A. Mortimer
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Start Page:285
Date Published:09/2009
Type of Article:Comment
Full Text

Systematic nomenclature was devised, not for the amusement of
taxonomists, but to serve a real need in society to classify the
elements of our biosphere in a way that eliminates confusion caused by
common names. Sadly, the situation that currently exists for the
Aldabra Tortoise is an example of taxonomy run amuck. The Aldabra
Tortoise, a form of charismatic megafauna and the national animal for
the Republic of Seychelles, is of great interest to virtually everyone
in our country, be they conservationists, politicians, school children,
visiting tourists, or the general public. Yet, for the past quarter
century the vast majority of us who are not professional taxonomists
have felt uncertain about which binomial to apply when publishing
papers, preparing exhibits, drafting legislation, producing permits,
giving talks, or writing popular accounts. A small number of people
involved in taxonomic pursuits, on the other hand, seem to have
revelled in each new opportunity to promote their current favourite

  It is for these reasons I fully support the proposal of Jack Frazier (Case 3463) to stabilise the species name gigantea for
the Aldabra Tortoise. Frazier’s petition is based on the premise that
stability of scientific names is essential and in many cases more
important than trying to interpret the true taxonomic intent of the
author of a name, and his designation of a neotype (Frazier, 2006a) for
T. gigantea and submission of Case 3463 are based on a clear
following of the Principles and Articles of the Code, in the latter
case Article 75.8. The latter allows previous type material to be set
aside and designation of another name-bearing type to act as the
reference for a species name when the previous type material is not
helpful in understanding what species is being dealt with. Moreover,
Frazier’s intention to conserve gigantea is entirely appropriate given that gigantea is
indeed the most frequently used species name for the Aldabra tortoise,
especially during the latter half of the 20th century with the
publication of a massive body of field research conducted at Aldabra
  Bour’s attempt to override Frazier’s neotype designation
with his claimed rediscovery of Schweigger’s long lost holotype, a
specimen that is clearly not an Aldabra tortoise (Bour, 2006), is
problematic in that it fuels continued debate and nomenclatural chaos.
I hope that the Commission will accept the recommendations in Case 3463
to stabilise the name of the Aldabra Tortoise as gigantea by
maintaining the neotype (USNM 269962). In doing so, they also will
grant those of us working on pressing issues of conservation on the
ground in Seychelles a much needed respite from confusion and a long
overdue sense of stability.

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