Resolution of the type material of the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus Linnaeus, 1758 (Proboscidea, Elephantidae)

Capellini, Enrico, Palkopoulou, Eleftheria, Ishida, Yasuko , Gentry, Anthea, Cram, David, Roos, Anna Marie, Watson, Mick, Johansson, Ulf S., Fernholm, Bo, Agnelli, Paolo, Barbagli, Fausto, Littlewood, D. Tim, Kelstrup, Christian D., Olsen, Jesper V., Lister, Adrian M., Roca, Alfred L., Dalen, Love, Gilbert, M. Thomas P., , and , (2014) Resolution of the type material of the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus Linnaeus, 1758 (Proboscidea, Elephantidae). Zoological Journal of the LInnean Society, 170 (1). pp. 222-232. ISSN 0024-4082

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The understanding of Earth’s biodiversity depends critically on the accurate identification and nomenclature of
species. Many species were described centuries ago, and in a surprising number of cases their nomenclature or type
material remain unclear or inconsistent. A prime example is provided by Elephas maximus, one of the most iconic
and well-known mammalian species, described and named by Linnaeus (1758) and today designating the Asian
elephant. We used morphological, ancient DNA (aDNA), and high-throughput ancient proteomic analyses to
demonstrate that a widely discussed syntype specimen of E. maximus, a complete foetus preserved in ethanol, is
actually an African elephant, genus Loxodonta. We further discovered that an additional E. maximus syntype,
mentioned in a description by John Ray (1693) cited by Linnaeus, has been preserved as an almost complete skeleton
at the Natural History Museum of the University of Florence. Having confirmed its identity as an Asian elephant
through both morphological and ancient DNA analyses, we designate this specimen as the lectotype of E. maximus.

Keywords:elephant, type specimen, Linnaeus, John Ray, morphology, ancient DNA, JCNotOpen
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V380 History of Science
C Biological Sciences > C300 Zoology
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
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ID Code:12594
Deposited On:25 Nov 2013 12:48

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