Sperm Whale Teeth


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The sperm whale is one of the species originally described by Linnaeus in 1758 in his eighteenth century work, Systema Naturae. He recognised four species in the genus Physeter. Experts soon realised that just one such species exists, although there has been debate about whether this should be named P. catodon or P. macrocephalus, two of the names used by Linnaeus. Both names are still used, although most recent authors now accept macrocephalus as the valid name, limiting catodon's status to a lesser synonym. Until 1974, the species was generally known as P. catodon. In that year, however, Husson & Holthuis proposed that the correct name should be P. macrocephalus, the second name in the genus Physeter published by Linnaeus concurrently with P. catodon. This proposition was based on the grounds that the names were synonyms published simultaneously, and, therefore, the ICZN Principle of the First Reviser should apply. In this instance, it led to the choice of P. macrocephalus over P. catodon, a view re-stated in Holthuis, 1987. This has been adopted by most subsequent authors, although Schevill (1986 and 1987 ) argued that macrocephalus was published with an inaccurate description and that therefore only the species catodon was valid, rendering the principle of "First Reviser" inapplicable. The most recent version of ITIS has altered its usage from P. catodon to P. macrocephalus, following L. B. Holthuis and more recent (2008) discussions with relevant experts. Furthermore, The Taxonomy Committee of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, the largest international association of marine mammal scientists in the world, officially uses Physeter macrocephalus when publishing their definitive list of marine mammal species.