Comments on the proposed conservation of usage of Testudo gigantea Schweigger, 1812 (currently Geochelone (Aldabrachelys) gigantea; Reptilia, Testudines) 5

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2009
Authors:Meylan, PA
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Volume:66
Issue:2
Start Page:178
Pagination:178
Date Published:06/2009
Type of Article:Comment
ISSN:0007-5167
Full Text

I am writing to ask you to stabilise the tortoise genus name Aldabrachelys as
proposed by Jack Frazier. In 1987, Walter Auffenberg (leading authority
on the family TESTUDINIDAE in his day, now deceased) and I published a
paper in which we described an extinct Aldabrachelys from
Tanzania. We did this a few years after Bour offered his alternative
name for the giant tortoises of Aldabra. At that time we did not find
this necessary and to this day I have continued to use the genus name Aldabrachelys for these tortoises. In 1987 we wrote: ‘Bour (1982) has recently stated that the specific name gigantea is not available for the giant tortoises of Aldabra. He also argues that because the subgeneric (or generic) name Aldabrachelys is associated with the name gigantea, it cannot be used either. He provides a new name, Dipsochelys, for the Seychelles tortoises. The crux of his argument is that Schweigger (1812) had a specimen of Cylindraspis indica (Schneider, 1783) in hand when he described Testudo (=Geochelone) gigantea. This is apparently debatable (Crumly, MS). Even if it could be shown with certainty that the name gigantea is based on a specimen of Cylindraspis, the name Aldabrachelys is
not necessarily invalid. As stated in Article 70 of the Code of
Zoological Nomenclature, when a type species is misidentified the case
is to be referred to the Commission on Zoological Nomenclature for
consideration. This has not been done. There is no doubt that Loveridge
and Williams (1957) applied the name Aldabrachelys to those
tortoises which today have their centre of abundance on Aldabra Island.
Therefore we continue to use this well established and consistently
used name.’ (Meylan & Auffenberg, 1987, p. 74). More than 20 years
later, I think this argument is still valid. I for one have always
thought of the name Dipsochelys as an unnecessary nuisance.

Additional references

Meylan, P.A. & Auffenberg, D.W. 1987. The chelonians from the Laetoli Beds. Pp. 62–78 in Leakey, M.D. & Harris, J.M. (Eds.), Laetoli: a Pliocene site in Northern. Tanzania. xxi, 561 pp. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

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