Paleonet: What's in a name?

Norman MacLeod n.macleod at
Tue Feb 12 08:49:57 UTC 2013

This just in from Ken Monsch.


Dear colleagues,

In April 2006, I posted a query on this list, about “fossil names” overruling “extant ones”. I received several replies to my post, on the list as well as off-list. I included the information in those replies in a study of mine, that was recently published. Here’s an update!

It started when my co-author Alexandre Bannikov and I wanted to publish about fossils of the Recent fish genus generally known as “Promethichthys”. We found that “Promethichththys” had an earlier name, used frequently enough to be valid and overrule “Promethichthys”.

But the correct name, Hemithyrsites, was used exclusively for fossils, not for Recent fish. That was a bit unusual, but it shouldn’t matter: the Recent Promethichthys prometheus’ correct name is in fact Hemithyrsites Prometheus, which is to be adopted from now. We wondered if there were other cases known of fossil names overruling Recent ones, and I asked the question on PaleoNet. I received replies of similar cases in sharks and hippos. It was a very interesting and informative discussion!

It took quite a few years for our study to materialise in print, because we included it in a monograph rather than a separate publication about Hemithyrsites. Anyway, the data of our paper are as follows:

Monsch K.A., Bannikov A.F. 2012 (for 2011) New taxonomic synopses and revision of the scombroid fishes (Scombroidei, Perciformes), including billfishes, from the Cenozoic of territories of the former USSR. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 102: 253–300.

I have a handful of paper reprints left, but fortunately I have a pdf. If you would like a reprint in whichever of the two versions, please send a mail directly to the below address.

Best regards,


Dr. Kenneth A. Monsch
Honorary Guest Researcher

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