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On the authorship and publication dates of the nomina Theraphosa and Theraphosidae (Araneae: Mygalomorphae)

Authors:
  • Arachnology Research Association
  • private researcher/freelancer

Abstract

The family Theraphosidae is the most speciose in the infraorder Mygalomorphae Pocock, 1892 with over one thousand described species (World Spider Catalog 2021). The taxonomy of the group has been subjected to considerable attention in modern times, with a focus on delineation based predominantly on genital organ and stridulatory organ morphology which has shown promise, both alongside molecular methods (where possible) and as a stand-alone line of evidence, in stabilising the group (e.g. Hamilton et al. 2016; Fabiano-da-Silva et al. 2020; see also Sherwood 2020). The predominant reference to the family is as Theraphosidae Thorell, 1870 with almost as many references to Theraphosidae Thorell, 1869. This non-congruence of dates is because Tord Tamerlan Teodor Thorell (1830–1901) had his important work On European Spiders published in two parts during its publication by the Royal Society of Upsala in its journal Nova Acta Regiae Societatis Scientiarum Upsaliensis. The first half (pages 1–108 and the supplement I–XIII) was published in 1869 whereas pages 109–242 (despite being dated on the cover page as 1869) were published in 1870 (see Roewer 1942; Bonnet 1945; World Spider Catalog 2021). In the second part, the secretary of the society notes: “L’auteur avait proposé comme titre du présent mémoire: Remarks on Synonyms of European Spiders, preceded by some observations on Zoological Nomenclature and a Review of the European Genera of Spiders; mais, la partie, insérée dans le Tome VII, étant seule présentée à la Société des Sciences le 13 Fevr. 1869, il a été nécessaii’e d’y conformer le titre.” [= The author proposed as the title of this memoir: Remarks on Synonyms of European Spiders, preceded by some observations on Zoological Nomenclature and a Review of the European Genera of Spiders; but, the part, inserted in Volume VII, being the only one presented to the Société des Sciences on 13 Feb. 1869, it was necessary to conform the title to it.].
https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4950.2.11
http://zoobank.org/urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:AD4BE949-EA56-4862-987D-C48835688D48
ZOOTAXA
ISSN 1175-5326 (print edition)
ISSN 1175-5334 (online edition)
395
Zootaxa 4950 (2): 395–397
https://www.mapress.com/j/zt/
Copyright © 2021 Magnolia Press Correspondence
Accepted by J. Bond: 11 Mar. 2021; published: 30 Mar. 2021
On the authorship and publication dates of the nomina Theraphosa and
Theraphosidae (Araneae: Mygalomorphae)
DANNIELLA SHERWOOD1*, THEO BLICK2,3, RAY GABRIEL1,5 & SYLVIA M. LUCAS4
1Arachnology Research Association, United Kingdom
2Heidloh 8, 95503 Hummeltal, Germany
info@theoblick.de; https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0799-2674
3World Spider Catalog, Natural History Museum Bern, Department of Invertebrates, Bernastrasse 15, 3005 Bern, Switzerland
4Laboratório Especial de Coleções Zoológicas, Instituto Butantan, Av. Vital Brasil, 1500, São Paulo, Brazil
sylviamlucas@gmail.com; https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4001-4744
5
angelarachnid@gmail.com; https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9781-1165
*Corresponding author.
danni.sherwood@hotmail.com; https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8170-9529
The family Theraphosidae is the most speciose in the infraorder Mygalomorphae Pocock, 1892 with over one thousand
described species (World Spider Catalog 2021). The taxonomy of the group has been subjected to considerable attention
in modern times, with a focus on delineation based predominantly on genital organ and stridulatory organ morphology
which has shown promise, both alongside molecular methods (where possible) and as a stand-alone line of evidence, in
stabilising the group (e.g. Hamilton et al. 2016; Fabiano-da-Silva et al. 2020; see also Sherwood 2020). The predominant
reference to the family is as Theraphosidae Thorell, 1870 with almost as many references to Theraphosidae Thorell, 1869.
This non-congruence of dates is because Tord Tamerlan Teodor Thorell (1830–1901) had his important work On Europe-
an Spiders published in two parts during its publication by the Royal Society of Upsala in its journal Nova Acta Regiae So-
cietatis Scientiarum Upsaliensis. The first half (pages 1–108 and the supplement I–XIII) was published in 1869 whereas
pages 109–242 (despite being dated on the cover page as 1869) were published in 1870 (see Roewer 1942; Bonnet 1945;
World Spider Catalog 2021). In the second part, the secretary of the society notes: “L’auteur avait proposé comme titre
du présent mémoire: Remarks on Synonyms of European Spiders, preceded by some observations on Zoological Nomen-
clature and a Review of the European Genera of Spiders; mais, la partie, insérée dans le Tome VII, étant seule présentée à
la Société des Sciences le 13 Fevr. 1869, il a été nécessaii’e d’y conformer le titre.” [= The author proposed as the title of
this memoir: Remarks on Synonyms of European Spiders, preceded by some observations on Zoological Nomenclature
and a Review of the European Genera of Spiders; but, the part, inserted in Volume VII, being the only one presented to
the Société des Sciences on 13 Feb. 1869, it was necessary to conform the title to it.].
Roewer (1942) mentioned no authorship of the families, neither did Brignoli (1983: 132) and Platnick (1989: 95,
1993: 99, 1998: 146). In the first online version of The World Spider Catalog (Platnick 2000) “Theraphosidae Thorell,
1870” is given. This was changed without any comment to “Theraphosidae Thorell, 1869” in Platnick (2008) and is main-
tained in the current World Spider Catalog (2021). This change was presumably initiated by Raven (1985: 115: “Thera-
phosoidae Thorell, 1869”). However, it must be noted that Raven (1985: 118–119) also later attributed the authorship as
“Theraphosoidae Thorell, 1870” in the same work. Thorell (1869: 25) was the first who used “Theraphosoidae” at the
family group level, which means that Theraphosidae Thorell, 1869 is the correct citation.
In the World Spider Catalog (2021), and in all prior catalogues (see above, e.g. Roewer 1942: 249), with exception of
Bonnet (1959), for the genus Theraphosa “Thorell, 1870” is given as authorship, but Thorell himself (Thorell 1870: 164)
wrote “Theraphosa (Walck.)”. Walckenaer (1805) established the nomen Theraphosa Walckenaer, 1805 as a “tribus” in
his work Tableau des aranéides ou caractères essentiels des tribus, genres, familles et races que renferme le genre Aranea
de Linné, avec la désignation des espèces comprises dans chacune de ces divisions including Mygale blondii Latreille,
1804 (amongst some other taxa, some of which remain valid in the present day). Latreille (1804) described this species in
the genus Mygale Latreille, 1804 which was for a long time associated with large and hirsute spiders, but was found to be
invalid due to the preoccupation of the nomen in the Mammalia Linnaeus, 1758 (see Cuvier 1800). At the time of the pub-
lication of these two papers, taxonomic ranks were still in the early days of establishment having been proposed only four
decades earlier by Linneaus (1758). Thus, we consider that Walckenaer’s use of “tribus” does not necessarily correspond
SHERWOOD ET AL.
396 · Zootaxa 4950 (2) © 2021 Magnolia Press
to the modern day supra-generic taxonomic rank of tribe (furthermore, the name Theraphosa is singular and not plural as
one would expect for a supra-generic nomen). This was first recognised and argued by Sundevall (1830) and Eichwald
(1830). Sundevall (1830: 190) argued that given the sound description of Theraphosa that it should be regarded as a genus
and that this was further supported by definitions of this nomen in the large nomenclatural work of Cuvier (1816) who
referenced Theraphosa in his work following the original paper by Walckenaer (1805). Similarly, Eichwald (1830: 73)
regarded Theraphosa to be a genus level nomen. Karsch (1880) also accepted Walckenaer as author of Theraphosa and
Bonnet (1959: 4425) lists several references of the genus Theraphosa, prior to Thorell (1870: 162). Roewer (1942: 249)
used “Theraphosa Thorell, 1870”. Consulting Bonnet (1959: 4425) we found a short discussion on the topic and that he
accepted “Walckenaer, 1805” as author for the genus Theraphosa and this is also true for Raven (1985: 118–119). Further
support for Walckenaer’s generic authorship of Theraphosa can be gained from Agassiz (1848: 1063), Stiles & Hassall
(1927: 244), Schiapelli & Gerschman (1967: 482) and Lucas (1983: 340).
Our opinion is that a name-bearing genus of a family should not be younger than the family itself, even though there
is no contradiction explicitly mentioned in the ICZN (2012). Indeed, an argument can be made that this is actually implied
in the wording of Article 11.7 of the Code (ICZN 2012): “A family-group name ... must be a noun in the nominative plural
formed from the stem of an available generic name”). If 1870 would be accepted as the publication date for Theraphosa,
the nomen would not have been available to build the family group name Theraphosoidae which was described in the year
1869. Therefore, based on the above discussion, we propose to accept the following family and genus authorships and
dates, respectively: Theraphosidae Thorell, 1869 and Theraphosa Walckenaer, 1805.
Another point pertinent to the discussion is the type fixation of Theraphosa. Since Walckenaer (1805) did not explic-
itly mention a generotype, nor was Theraphosa monotypic, it cannot be fixed by original designation in accordance with
Article 68 of the Code (ICZN 2012). Thorell (1870: 163) formally designated T. blondi as the type species of Theraphosa
which satisfies both Article 67.5 and Article 69 of the Code (ICZN 2012). No authors prior to Thorell satisfy Article 67.5,
which requires that type fixations be “rigidly construed” (ICZN 2012) and we thus consider there are no valid claims to
type fixation for Theraphosa prior to the work of Thorell (1870).
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers whose helpful comments improved the manuscript.
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... To suggest that these authors operated a Russian doll concept of genera, with genus nested within genus, would make a mockery of traditional arachnological nomenclature. Sherwood et al. (2021a) are of course absolutely correct that "taxonomic ranks were still in the early days of establishment" when Walckenaer published his work and "that Walckenaer's use of 'tribus' does not necessarily correspond to the modern day supra-generic taxonomic rank of tribe". The names of the higher ranks, as well as the rules for their formation and application, were indeed still evolving at the time of Walckenaer. ...
... This is, again, a very clear and unambiguous case. And, contrary to the insinuations of Sherwood et al. (2021a), there has been an all but unanimous consensus in the interpretation of Theraphosa Walckenaer as a suprageneric taxon in the historical literature. ...
... For example, Sherwood et al. (2021a) state that the interpretation of Theraphosa Walckenaer as a genus name was supported by a supposed work of Cuvier: "… this was further supported by definitions of this nomen in the large nomenclatural work of Cuvier (1816) who referenced Theraphosa in his work following the original paper by Walckenaer (1805)". In fact, this citation refers to volume 3 of Cuvier's Règne Animal, written entirely by Latreille and published in 1817 under his sole authorship. ...
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