Scarabaeus bellicosus Olivier, 1789 : 103,

Maldaner, Maria E., Cupello, Mario, Ferreira, Daniela C. & Vaz-De-Mello, Fernando Z., 2017, Type specimens and names assigned to Coprophanaeus (Megaphanaeus) d’Olsoufieff, 1924, the largest New World dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Phanaeini), Zootaxa 4272 (1), pp. 83-102: 90

publication ID

publication LSID

persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Scarabaeus bellicosus Olivier, 1789 : 103


Scarabaeus bellicosus Olivier, 1789: 103  .

Type specimen: Lectotype: designated by Staig (1931, p. 53), male (‘10’, ‘139175’, ‘ Scarabaeus bellicosus Oliv.  / Phanaeus bellicosus Oliv.  / Type’, ‘Type’), HMUG.

Type locality: Brazilian Atlantic Forest (see comments below).

Nomenclatural history: In 1789, Olivier proposed the new species Scarabaeus bellicosus  stating that it was very similar to the ‘ Scarabé porte-lance ’ (i.e., S. lancifer Linné, 1767  ), but smaller (‘ mais il est plus petit ’). The type locality cited by him was ‘ Cayenne ’, in today’s French Guiana, and the material upon which he based his description was deposited in the collection of Scottish anatomist and physician William Hunter (1718–1783) (‘ Du Cabinet de feu M. Hunter ’). Hunter bequeathed his zoological and geological collections and library to the University of Glasgow, where they arrived in 1807 and formed the base for the foundation of the Zoology Museum ( Staig 1931), part of the today’s Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery. In his study of the Hunterian Insect Collection, Staig (1931) writes about S. bellicosus  :

‘The type of this species is noted in the card-index of Dr Hunter’s Collection as missing; but in Cabinet E, drawer 32, there is a specimen (not labelled) which answers the description given by Olivier and which resembles his figure. It also closely matches the modern examples of this species […] and evidently it is the Olivier type’ ( Staig 1931, p. 53).

At the museum’s online catalogue, we found a photograph of that specimen (catalogue number: 139175) and it is labelled (probably by Staig himself) as the ‘type’ of S. bellicosus  . We agree that this specimen perfectly matches Olivier’s description and illustration ( Figure 3View FIGURE 3 A) and, therefore, we conclude it is indeed a type specimen of this name. The kind of typification (i.e., whether this specimen is a holotype or a syntype), however, is not as clear: Olivier’s description refers to a single male specimen, since he did not indicate any sexual dimorphism or variation among different specimens nor cited more than one place in the type locality. Based on these facts, one could believe that he examined only one individual for his description and, hence, this single specimen would be the holotype of S. bellicosus  . Nonetheless, Recommendation 73F of the Code states:

‘Where no holotype or syntype was fixed for a nominal species-group taxon established before 2000, and when it is possible that the nominal species-group taxon was based on more than one specimen, an author should proceed as though syntypes may exist and, where appropriate, should designate a lectotype rather than assume a holotype’ ( ICZN, 1999, p. 80; bold by us).

Because Olivier (1789) did not explicitly cite the number of individuals he had examined, it is impossible to guarantee whether the Glasgow specimen is the holotype of S. bellicosus  or one of the syntypes  . Therefore, we should follow Code’s recommendation and assume the Glasgow specimen was originally part of a syntypic series rather than considering it as the sole specimen upon which Olivier based his description. However , no lectotype designation is needed: when Staig (1931) described and illustrated ( Figure 3View FIGURE 3 B) that specimen as ‘the type’ of S. bellicosus  , he unintentionally designated it as the lectotype of this name according to Article 74.6 of the Code. 

The type locality cited by Olivier (1789, 1790), ‘ Cayenne’ is clearly wrong, since Coprophanaeus bellicosus  does not occur in French Guiana nor in any other place in the Amazon forest , but rather solely along the Atlantic Forest of the Brazilian coast ( Edmonds & Zídek 2010; Silva 2011). The only species of Megaphanaeus  present in the Guiana Shield is C. lancifer  , and Olivier certainly was not referring to this species when he described S. bellicosus  given his description, illustration and comments. We do not know what was the origin for this error, but Hope (1838), who revised the scarab species described by Olivier (1789), cited several cases of wrong type localities given by the latter author (see also, for example, Cupello et al.’s [2016] discussion on the type locality of Chalcocopris hesperus (Olivier, 1789))  . To our knowledge, the first author to cite the correct distribution of C. bellicosus  was MacLeay (1819), who mentioned ‘ Habitat in Brasilia  ’ for this species. Here , following Recommendation 76A.2 of the Code , we correct the type locality of C. bellicosus  from ‘ Cayenne ’ to the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, the most accurate location possible to indicate without knowing the particular history of the lectotype  .














Scarabaeus bellicosus Olivier, 1789 : 103

Maldaner, Maria E., Cupello, Mario, Ferreira, Daniela C. & Vaz-De-Mello, Fernando Z. 2017

Scarabaeus bellicosus

Olivier 1789: 103