Corrected date of the first description of aurochs Bos primigenius (Bojanus, 1827) and steppe bison Bison priscus (Bojanus, 1827)
A newly discovered copy of Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus’ De uro nostrato ejusque sceleto commentatio, Bovis primigenii sceleto aucta in the collection of the Palaeontology Library of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France, published in 1825, is presented as an argument that the date of description of aurochs Bos primigenius (Bojanus, 1827) and steppe bison Bison priscus (Bojanus, 1827) should be corrected. Bojanus’ name should be followed by the date 1825, not 1827, when citing those species: Bos primigenius (Bojanus, 1825) and Bison priscus (Bojanus, 1825).
KeywordsHistory of science Aurochs Steppe bison International Code of Zoological Nomenclature
Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus’ (1776–1827) De uro nostrato ejusque sceleto commentatio, Bovis primigenii sceleto aucta is one of the most important publications devoted to European bison and aurochs and one of the remaining most prominent nineteenth-century works on comparative anatomy. It is also one of the last publications of this scholar, who moved from Vilnius to Darmstadt in 1824 with terminal illness (Fedorowicz 1958). His last years and contents of his last will were a subject of a separate publication (Daszkiewicz and Edel 2014).
In his work, Bojanus delivered a detailed description of European bison with special attention paid to the skeleton. He also reflected upon an ongoing scientific debate whether European bison and aurochs were separate species, stating that two different Bovidae species existed in Europe in historical times. This publication was also the first to describe two species: aurochs Bos primigenius and steppe bison Bison priscus. Bojanus created a new osteometric methodology for the purposes of his work, which was soon recognised by the scientific community and proclaimed a milestone in the history of comparative anatomy (Krysiak and Świeżyński 1967). The work was republished in the twentieth century with a Polish translation and a scientific analysis (Roskosz and Empel 1965).
It is very unlikely that this work had an antecedent Vilnius edition from 1825, as some sources claim. In the detailed Bojanus’ bibliography by Sobieszczański (1849), taking into account subsequent editions and translations, we read: “There are up to 50 of his works and dissertations published separately or in journals, or left in manuscripts, and we list them with bibliographical scrupulosity” and De uro nostrate eiusque sceleto is mentioned only in section II (“Published in journals”) and is absent from section I which collected all his manuscripts. Also dr. I. I. Sokolov from the Zoological Institute of Academy of Sciences in the USSR in Leningrad was not able to find ant traces of “Vilnius” edition.
No traces were also discovered during long-term studies on Bojanus’ biography and heritage conducted in Lithuanian, Polish, German and French libraries and archives (Edel and Daszkiewicz 2015).
From a historical point of view, a copy of De uro nostrato ejusque sceleto commentatio, Bovis primigenii sceleto aucta held in the Palaeontology Library of Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris (MNHN) is particularly interesting. Bojanus had a special connection with this institution, where he conducted part of his studies. In his work, he cites the skeleton of a bison from the collection in Paris. Bojanus has dedicated his most important work Anatome testudinis europae to palaeontologist Georges Cuvier, whom he considered his master. In the collection of the main library of MNHN, there is a copy of Anatome... and Parergon ad L.H. Bojani Anatomen testudinis: cranii vertebratorum animalium, scilicet piscium, reptilium, avium, mammaliium comparationem faciens, icone illustratam: in usum studiosae juventutis seorsum excusum that belonged to Cuvier, alongside a letter from Bojanus to Cuvier.
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