Rafinesque’s names for western American mammals, including the earliest scientific name for the coyote (Canis latrans Say, 1822), based on the apocryphal journal of Charles Le Raye

Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington
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Abstract

In 1817, the naturalist Constantine S. Rafinesque named nine new species of mammals from the American West, indicating the recently published journal of Charles Le Raye as the primary source for his descriptions. Le Raye was purported to be a French Canadian fur trader who, as a captive of the Sioux, had traveled across broad portions of the Missouri and Yellowstone river drainages a few years before the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) traversed much of the same region. Le Raye's journal was relied upon by generations of scholars as a valuable source documenting the native peoples and natural history of the Upper Missouri river in the era just prior to European settlement. Subsequent research, however, has shown that Le Raye never existed, and his purported journal is fraudulent. Despite this, Rafinesque's creation of the names followed conventional and accepted practice at the time, and they are porentially available. Fortunately, much of the Le Raye journal was based on verifiable sources, such as Patrick Gass's published account of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Identification of the original source materials makes it possible to establish the correct application of Rafinesque's names and to determine their current status. This process reveals that the earliest scientific name for the coyote (Canis latrans Say, 1822) was Canis chlorops Rafinesque, 1817; this name is now a nomen oblitum, however, and is no longer available.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Rafinesque’s names for western American mammals, including the earliest scientific name for the coyote (Canis latrans Say, 1822), based on the apocryphal journal of Charles Le Raye
Series title Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington
DOI 10.2988/0006-324X-128.1.63
Volume 128
Issue 1
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Biological Society of Washington
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 7 p.
First page 63
Last page 79
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N