The new Miocene sperm whale Leviathan is now Livyatan

August 26, 2010

A bit frightening to realise it’s been more than a month since the last SV-POW! post.  We have some excuse for that: I am just back from a fortnight’s holiday with my family, and shortly before that Matt was at a conference in Uruguay.  Still, a whole month?

And this post is going to be disappointingly short and off-topic — it’s just a bit of housekeeping really.

Back at the end of June, I pointed out on this blog that the awesome new Miocene sperm whale Leviathan was a junior synonym of Koch’s name Leviathian which he introduced as a more than usually stupid synonym of Mammut, the mastodon.  (See the original piece for the gory details.)

I am pleased to note that this has now been resolved: the authors of the new Leviathan paper have published a short corrigendum proposing the replacement name Livyatan, resulting in the new combination Livyatan melvillei.  Since the corrigendum is so short, here it is in its entirety:

The genus name Leviathan, proposed in this Letter for a new fossil physeteroid from the Miocene of Peru, is preoccupied by Leviathan Koch, 1841 (ref. 1), a junior subjective synonym of Mammut Blumenbach, 1799 (ref. 2). We propose here a replacement name Livyatan gen. nov. The type species is placed in this genus to form the binomial Livyatan melvillei. The diagnosis and content of the new genus follow our Letter. ‘Livyatan’ is a Hebrew name applied to large marine monsters in popular and mythological stories. We thank M. P. Taylor and D. Yanega for bringing this to our attention.

It’s nice to get a mention, though a shame they weren’t able to include a link to SV-POW!.  Probably Nature‘s guidelines don’t allow that — they wouldn’t be alone — and in any case we’ve hardly been a friend to the Nature Publishing Group, so maybe we’d have even less reason to expect any love from them :-)

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16 Responses to “The new Miocene sperm whale Leviathan is now Livyatan

  1. Heinrich Mallison Says:

    and it is us Germans who’re supposed to be sticklers for the rules, hu?

    ;)

  2. Nathan Myers Says:

    So the loophole left by Koch’s misspelling is too small to slip through? For a whale, I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. We should be glad they didn’t name it Kochcankissmyass m.

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    There was no loophole that I know about. Koch used at least two different spellings (Leviathan and Levathan) in different publications, and thereby caused both to become JSSs of Mammut. So neither is available for new genera.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    If its any consolation, Behemoth seems to still be an open scientific name. Quick, somebody use it for a sauropod before it gets taken up by a beetle again!

  5. William Miller Says:

    Behemoth should probably go to a large mammal of some sort. Hippo, rhino, elephant, mammoth/mastodon etc.

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Well, mastodons already have Leviathan — they shouldn’t be greedy!

    And anyway — there are no large mammals.

  7. andy Says:

    I suppose that’s one way to immortalise yourself through the ages, engage in some taxonomic logorrhoea and occupy all the cool names with junior synonyms…

  8. William Miller Says:

    >>And anyway — there are no large mammals.

    Even whales?


  9. Actually Behemoth is Hebrew for Hippo, and Livyatan is Hebrew for Whale – at least in modern Hebrew they are. The original biblical references are fuzzy enough that they could have been sauropods for all we know (as long as they were less than 6000 years old, of course :-)

  10. Nathan Myers Says:

    Melville spent a whole chapter of Moby Dick demonstrating that whales really are fish. But so are we, so the joke’s on him.

  11. Mike Taylor Says:

    >>And anyway — there are no large mammals.
    >
    > Even whales?

    OK, smartarse, no large terrestrial mammals.


  12. [...] And – teaser – Mehmet Köseman and I have collaborated on something to do with physeteroids. I haven’t yet found the time to write it up. It involves the animal formerly known asLeviathanandjust given the new nameLivyatan. [...]


  13. Behemoth might still available. However, there is Behemotops which is a desmostylian.
    Domning, D. P., C. E. Ray & M. C. McKenna. 1986. Two new Oligocene desmostylians and a discussion of tethytherian systematics. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 59: 1-56.

  14. Darren Naish Says:

    There’s also a tethytherian clade called Behemota McKenna, Bell & Shoshani in McKenna & Bell, 1997.

  15. Nathan Myers Says:

    Kudos to McKenna, Domning, et al for not stepping on Behemoth when they could easily have done. It should be held in reserve for when the bipedal elephantomorphian is discovered.


  16. [...] The new Miocene sperm whale Leviathan is now Livyatan [...]


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