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Nomenclature of the Larger Toothed Whales (Odontocetes): A Historical Review

More than 100 species of large odontocete cetaceans (i.e., families Ziphiidae, Physeteridae, and Kogiidae) have been described since our binomial nomenclatorial system was initiated by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. Only a fraction of these are currently recognized as valid species. The taxonomic revisions that are being recommended by recent and ongoing studies within this group require a detailed understanding of their nomenclatural history. We here review all 114 nominal species of extant beaked and sperm whales. Of these, 27 species are currently considered valid, 6 are nomina dubia, 10 are nomina nuda, and the rest (71) are junior synonyms. In addition, we provide several appendices that attempt to settle the controversy over the name of the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), provide biographies of the main authors of names, give a glossary of terms, and summarize information on the status of type specimens. Because beaked whales are still so poorly known, there are likely to be future splits and descriptions of new species and/or subspecies. This paper is intended to assist in sorting out nomenclature in such taxonomic cases. Jefferson, Thomas A., James G. Mead, and Carl C. Kinze. Nomenclature of the Larger Toothed Whales (Odontocetes): A Historical Review. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, number 655, x + 78 pages, 33 figures, 5 appendixes, 1 table, 2023.

Publication Date: January 25, 2023

Availability: Electronically, Paperback