Homo sapiens
© The Linnean Society of London
Simia rosalia
by Tim Knight, Primate Gallery

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Karl von Linné (his Latinized name is Carolius Linnaeus) is today honored as the father of the binomial system of scientific nomenclature. Several Linnaean Societies celebrate his name and work to preserve the tradition he established. First, let's set a few definitions to aid in understanding the rest of this page:

  • Nomenclature: A system of names employed by scientists in naming animals and plants.
  • Taxonomy: The science of classification; the arrangement of animals and plants into groups based on their natural relationships; also called systematics and cladistics.

  • Taxon: A taxonomic name, group or entity of any rank or size. Any kingdom, class, family, genus or species is a taxon. The plural form is taxa. Taxonomists are scientists who describe and keep track of species and higher ranks of plants and animals.

  • Species: A taxon or population which, in nature, interbreed producing fertile offspring. Humanity is a taxon, all the members of which constitute just one species, Homo sapiens. There are many taxa or species of primates, however.

  • Genus: A subdivision of a family of plants or animals which includes one or more closely related species. The genus Canis contains wolves, dogs and other canids. The primate genus Pan contains two species, the Common Chimpanzee and the more gracile Bonobo. The plural of genus is genera.

  • Binomial Nomenclature: A system in which two nomens or names are employed. The first name must always be capitalized, and represents the genus to which the species belongs. The second name, never capitalized, is the specific name, sometimes called the trivial name. There can never be two species in the same genus with identical specific names.

  • Trinomens: After Linnaeus' time the concept of the subspecies was introduced. A trinomial name has three parts, the third part designating the subspecies.

Until about 100 years ago there was a great deal of confusion about the proper formal names of animals and plants. The situation was so chaotic that zoologists from around the world finally agreed to a set of rules for nomenclature, and vested authority for making decisions on disputed cases in an International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. Botanists and other scientific groups now also have similar international commissions. In the listing below you will see mention of ICZN decisions affecting Linnaeus' names.

Credit for the authorship of a name is given to that person who first publishes a credible reference to it. Once published, a name may not be changed except to correct an error in accordance with the rules.

When you read "Homo sapiens [Linnaeus 1758]" that means that Linnaeus was the author or first publisher of the name Homo sapiens. If you should see "Eulemur mongoz [Linnaeus 1766]" then credit is also being given to Linnaeus for authorship even though he is not the author of the genus name "Eulemur" which was not coined until 1988 by Simmons and Rumpler. Authorship notation after a full species name pertains to the species only. The same is true in the case of a trinomial name, unless it is for the nominate form. For example, Linnaeus is the author of Eulemur macaco macaco, a nominate form, but he is not the author of another subspecies known as Eulemur macaco flavifrons. Regarding generic names, when you look in a book like Walker's Mammals of the World you will find at the headings for each genus something like "Lemur Linnaeus, 1758" and "Eulemur Simmons and Rumpler, 1988."

Over time as more and more species are found, and more about their natural biology is learned, taxonomists have the confidence to "revise" the taxonomy of a genus or family. When a species is "moved" into another genus it retains the original specific or trivial name. However, the ending of that name may be changed, under the rules of nomenclature, so that the Latin gender agrees with that of the new generic name. Thus, you will see below that the Linnaean name Simia capucina became Cebus capucinus, and Simia sciurea became Saimiri sciureus. Despite the change in ending, authorship remains vested in the original describer.

When a family of animals is subjected to intensive study by taxonomists (as is the case with primates today) the scientific names found in popular books may seem to vary widely. Depending upon the book you are reading the names, both scientific and common, may not match those given in the extensive listings of primates on this website. Unless you have found a name for a very recently described species, you will probably locate what you are looking for in a nearby genus. However, no attempt is made to show all the names of subspecies in these listings.

Names originally misspelled may sometimes be corrected. I suspect this was the case regarding mungoz and sphynx in the list below, but need to research this point further. I am also uncertain as to why there seems to be confusion over the situation with chimpanzee/orangutan and attributing the name troglodytes to Linnaeus and conserving his name satyrus. I will undoubtedly revise these comments after seeing a facsimile copy of  Systema Naturae 1758 and reading the ICZN decision in the matter.

Disposition of Primate Names Used by Linné

Linnaeus named 42 species of primates. In the counts given at right two of those names fit two categories, so you see 44 items given. Of those 42 names we only use two today exactly as Linnaeus presented them. Of his species still recognized today, all but two have been moved to new genera, one to a new order.

Taxonomies change in response to more precise information.

  2  Linnaean Names Still in Full Usage
29  Names Transferred to New Genera
10  Names Entered into Synonymy
  1  Transferred to Non-Primate Order
  2  Searching for Info re: Disposition

Linnaean Name Date Now Known As: Taxonomic Notes from Smithsonian Database.
Homo sapiens 1758 Homo sapiens Linnaeus 1758
Homo troglodytes 1758 Pan troglodytes Simia troglodytes Blumenbach 1775.
Pan Oken 1816. ICZN 1988.
Simia given as original name by Smithsonian.
Simia satyrus 1760
Simia satyrus 1760 Pongo pygmaeus Pongo Lacépède 1799.
Lemur catta 1758 Lemur catta Linnaeus 1758
Lemur macaco 1766 Eulemer macaco Eulemur Simons and Rumpler 1988. Type L. mongoz
Lemur mungoz 1766 Eulemur mongoz
Lemur tardigradus 1758 Loris tardigradus Loris É. Geoffroy 1796. Type Lemur tardigradus
Simia syrichta 1758 Tarsius syrichta Tarsius Storr 1780
New World Monkeys
Simia belzebul 1766 Alouatta belzebul Alouatta Lacépède 1799.
Simia seniculus 1766 Alouatta seniculus
Simia paniscus 1758 Ateles paniscus Ateles É. Geoffroy 1806. Type S. paniscus L. 1758.
Simia jacchus 1758 Callithrix jacchus Callithrix Erxleben 1777. Type. S. jacchus L. 1758.
Simia apella 1758 Cebus apella Cebus Erxleben 1777 type = Simia capucina L. 1758
Simia fatuellus 1766
Simia trepida ?
Simia capucina 1758 Cebus capucinus
Simia rosalia 1766 Leontopithecus rosalia Leontopithecus Lesson 1840. L. makikina = S. rosalia
Simia pithecia 1766 Pithecia pithecia Pithecia Desmarest 1804. Type S. pithecia L. 1766.
Simia midas 1758 Saguinas midas Saguinas Hoffmannsegg 1807.
Saguinas ursula = Simia midas
Simia oedipus 1758 Saguinus oedipus
Simia sciurea 1758 Saimiri sciureus Saimiri Voigt, 1831. Type S. sciurea L. 1758
Old World Monkeys
Simia cephus 1758 Cercopithecus cephus C. Linnaeus 1758 (where?) Type S. diana L. 1758.
Designated a subgroup of Simia by Linnaeus.
Simia suppressed by Opinion 114 of ICZN 1929.
Simia diana 1758 Cercopithecus diana
Simia faunus 1758
Simia nictitans 1766 Cercopithecus nictitans
Simia aethiops 1766 Chlorocebus aethiops Chlorocebus Gray 1870. Type S. sabaea = S. aethiops
Simia sabaea 1766 Chlorocebus sabaeus Seen by some taxonomists as a distinct species
Simia cynomolgos ? Macaca fascicularis in The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates
Simia nemestrina 1766 Macaca nemestrina Macaca Lacépède 1799. Type S. inuus = S.sylvanus
Simia silenus 1758 Macaca silenus
Simia veter ?
Simia sylvanus 1758 Macaca sylvanus
Simia inuus 1766
Simia sphynx 1758 Mandrillus sphinx Mandrillus Ritgen 1824. Type S. maimon = S. sphinx
Simia maimon 1766
Simia hamadryas 1758 Papio hamadryas Papio Erxleben 1777 = Cynocephalus Desmarest 1820
Simia cynocephalus 1758 Papio cynocephalus Seen by some taxonomists as a distinct species
Simia aygula ? syn. Presbytis comata Desmarest 1822. Orig. name Semnopithecus comatus.
P. aygula is a nomen oblitum for Macaca fascicularis.
No mention of Linnaeus found.
Simia apedia ? ? No information yet regarding disposition of this name.
Simia morta ? ? No information yet regarding disposition of this name.
Lemur volans 1758 Cynocephalus volans

Cynocephalus Boddaert 1768. Type L. volans L. 1758. (Flying Lemurs). Taxonomists now consider the Flying Lemurs closely related to the Primates but in their own Order Dermoptera. They are non-primate.