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Article
Published: 2021-12-17

Whence Orycteropus? The correct authorship and date for the generic name of the aardvark (Mammalia, Tubulidentata, Orycteropodidae)

U.S. Geological Survey, Eastern Ecological Science Center, Laurel, MD 20708, and Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, MRC-108, Washington, DC 20013, USA
Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire Georges Cuvier multiple publication principle of priority Société Philomatique de Paris taxonomic history

Abstract

All else being equal, the principle of priority in zoological taxonomic nomenclature gives precedence to the earliest name for a particular taxon. Determining the origin of some late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century taxonomic names, however, can be vexing, particularly when the history of a name was never completely documented in contemporary synonymies. The authorship and date for Orycteropus Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1796: 102, the genus-group name for the African aardvark, Orycteropus afer (Pallas, 1766), has been variously ascribed to at least four authors other than É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Using digitally imaged publications now available in a variety of internet-accessible libraries, I traced the comprehensive history of the name and show how and, to some extent, why its origin became obscured. É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire’s original description was re-published twice, most likely to make the description more widely available. Rather than reinforce his authorship for the name, however, the surprising consequence of the multiple publications was to cast doubt on it.

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