In 1815, the naturalist Constantine S. Rafinesque described a new species of cetacean, Balena gastrytis, from Sicily, based on a whale that stranded on Carini beach near Palermo. In comparing the characteristics of his new whale with known species, Rafinesque also took the opportunity to name a new genus, Cetoptera, to replace Balaenoptera Lacépède, 1804. Unfortunately, few of Rafinesque's contemporaries saw his article, which appeared in Il Portafoglio, a local journal that he published and distributed. The journal remains rare, and awareness of the whale remains minimal, despite its relevance to cetacean taxonomy and understanding of whale diversity and distribution in the Mediterranean. We describe the circumstances of the stranding of the Sicilian whale and provide Rafinesque's original description of the whale, as well as an evaluation of its reported characteristics and its current identity.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Rafinesque's Sicilian whale, Balena gastrytis|
|Series title||Archives of Natural History|
|Publisher||Edinburgh University Press|
|Contributing office(s)||Patuxent Wildlife Research Center|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|