Rafinesque's Sicilian whale, Balena gastrytis

Archives of Natural History
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Abstract

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 type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Rafinesque's Sicilian whale, Balena gastrytis
Series title Archives of Natural History
DOI 10.3366/anh.2017.0446
Volume 44
Issue 2
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 12 p.
First page 229
Last page 240