Centuria Insectorum

Centuria Insectorum (Latin, "one hundred insects") is a 1763 taxonomic work by Carl Linnaeus, and defended as a thesis by Boas Johansson; which of the two men should for taxonomic purposes be credited with its authorship has been the subject of some controversy. It includes descriptions of 102 new insect and crustacean species that had been sent to Linnaeus from British America, Suriname, Java and other locations. Most of the new names included in Centuria Insectorum are still in use, although a few have been sunk into synonymy, and one was the result of a hoax: a common brimstone butterfly with spots painted on was described as the new "species" Papilio ecclipsis.

The first page of Centuria Insectorum, as included in Amoenitates Academicæ


The contents of the work were published twice, under two slightly different titles. Centuria Insectorum Rariorum ("one hundred rare insects") was published as a standalone thesis, while Centuria Insectorum was published as part of Linnaeus' series of Amoenitates Academicæ ("academic delights"). Both bear the date June 23, 1763, although the latter was printed later, in September 1763.[1]


Carl Linnaeus, the probable author of Centuria Insectorum

Since Centuria Insectorum Rariorum was a thesis presented and defended by one of Linnaeus' students, Boas Johansson (1742–1809) from Kalmar, it has been argued that authorship of the taxa named in it should be assigned to Johansson. The authorship, however, has been the subject of some controversy.[1]

Several lines of argument have been used to suggest that Linnaeus should be considered the author. The role of the person defending the thesis at Swedish universities at the time was to prove his command of Latin, and responsibility for the text of the thesis rested mainly, if not entirely, with the professor.[1] Linnaeus appeared to consider himself the author, referring in his later works to Amoenitates Academicæ without including an abbreviation for the author, as he did for works written by other people.[1] Works presented by students of other taxonomists of the era (such as Carl Peter Thunberg, Adam Afzelius and Elias Magnus Fries) are generally credited to their supervisors, and not the students themselves.[1] Finally, most zoologists, and "Scandinavian authorities on Linnaeana" consider Linnaeus the author;[1] in the interests of nomenclatural stability, it is preferable to continue doing so. The issue was raised in a petition to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and, although a large majority voted in favour of recognising Linnaeus as the author, the one dissenting vote caused the commission to defer its decision.[2]


The specimens used by Linnaeus or Johansson in writing Centuria Insectorum include some provided by Dr Alexander Garden, a horticulturist from Charles Town in the Province of South Carolina,[3] by Carl Gustav Dahlberg in Suriname,[4] by Hans Johan Nordgren in Java,[5] and from the collection of Baron Charles De Geer from the Province of Pennsylvania.


The dissertation begins by discussing improvements that the Linnaean system of taxonomy has brought to the study of insects, before describing the new species.[6]

Brimstone hoax

Gonepteryx rhamni: a specimen with spots added was named Papilio ecclipsis in Centuria Insectorum

One of the species described in Centuria Insectorum was "Papilio ecclipsis". This was based on a specimen sent by William Charlton to James Petiver in 1702, who wrote: "It exactly resembles our English Brimstone Butterfly (R. Rhamni), were it not for those black spots and apparent blue moons on the lower wings. This is the only one I have seen."[7] Carl Linnaeus examined the butterfly, and named it Papilio ecclipsis in Centuria Insectorum Rariorum, including it in his Systema Naturae from the 12th edition (1767) onwards.[7] It was not until 1793 that the hoax was discovered by Johan Christian Fabricius, who recognised that the dark patches had been painted on, and that the specimen was a common brimstone butterfly (now called Gonepteryx rhamni). Although the curator at the British Museum "indignantly stamped the specimen to pieces" when he found out, William Jones created two replicas to replace the lost specimen.[7]


The 102 species described in Centuria Insectorum were divided into seven sections, broadly corresponding with modern insect orders. Exceptions are that thrips (Thysanoptera), mantises (Mantodea) and Orthoptera were included in the Hemiptera, dragonflies (Odonata) were included in the Neuroptera, and the section called "Aptera" contains crustaceans rather than insects in the modern sense. Most of the names introduced in Centuria Insectorum are still in use, albeit in different genera; in a few cases, it is not clear what animal the name refers to.[Note 1]


Sitophilus oryzae, named in Centuria Insectorum as Curculio oryza
No.Name in Centuria...StatusCurrent name
1SCARABÆUS Tityusvalid [8]Dynastes tityus
2SCARABÆUS Molosſus [Note 2]valid [9]Catharsius molossus
3SCARABÆUS ſurinamussynonym [10]Rutela lineola
4SCARABÆUS capreolusvalid [11]Lucanus capreolus
5DERMESTES Gleditſiævalid [12]Caryobruchus gleditsiae
6DERMESTES bactrisvalid [13]Pachymerus bactris
7CASSIDA ſpinifexvalid [14]Acromis spinifex
8CASSIDA bipuſtulatajunior synonym [15]Stolas discoides
9CASSIDA bicornisvalid [16]Omocerus bicornis
10CASSIDA leucophæa
11COCCINELLA ſangvineavalid [17]Cycloneda sanguinea
12COCCINELLA ſurinamenſisjunior synonym [18]Aegithus clavicornis
13CHRYSOMELA gibboſavalid [19]Gibbifer gibbosus
14CHRYSOMELA undulatavalid [20]Phyllocharis undulata
15CHRYSOMELA caſtanea
16CHRYSOMELA Gorteriævalid [21]Cryptocephalus gorteriae
17CHRYSOMELA octopunctata
18CHRYSOMELA punctatiſſima
19CURCULIO oryzavalid [22]Sitophilus oryzae
20CURCULIO ſurinamenſisvalid [22]Curculio surinamensis
21CANTHARIS bicolorvalid [23][Note 3]Thonalmus bicolor
22CICINDELA æquinoctialisvalid [25]Pheropsophus aequinoctialis
23CICINDELA carolinavalid [26]Tetracha carolina
24ELATER ligneusvalid [27]Semiotus ligneus
25MELOE Chryſomeloidesvalid [28]Nemognatha chrysomeloides
26TENEBRIO Gigas [Note 4]


Stagmomantis carolina, named in Centuria Insectorum as Gryllus carolinus
Arilus cristatus, named in Centuria Insectorum as Cimex cristatus
No.Name in Centuria...StatusCurrent name
27GRYLLUS unicornis [Note 5]synonym [1][30]Empusa pennicornis
28GRYLLUS carolinusvalid [1]Stagmomantis carolina
29GRYLLUS irroratussynonym [1]Stagmomantis carolina
30GRYLLUS Lunusvalid [1]Monachidium lunum
31GRYLLUS Cinerariussynonym [1]Pterochroza ocellata
32GRYLLUS brachypterus /
GRYLLUS necydaloides [Note 6]
valid /
junior synonym [31]
Pseudophasma brachypterum
33GRYLLUS javanusjunior synonym [1][32]Mecopoda elongata
34GRYLLUS perſpicillatusvalid [1]Ommatolampis perspicillata
35GRYLLUS ſpinuloſusvalid [1]Eugaster spinulosa
36GRYLLUS ſuccinctusvalid [1][33]Nomadacris succincta
37GRYLLUS brevicornisvalid [1]Metaleptea brevicornis
38GRYLLUS convolutusvalid [1]Miogryllus convolutus
39CICADA flammeavalid [34]Zanna flammea
40CICADA truncatavalid [34]Oryxa truncata
41CIMEX ictericusvalid [35]Euschistus ictericus
42CIMEX criſtatusvalid [36]Arilus cristatus
43CIMEX ſcabervalid [37]Acanthocoris scaber
44CIMEX ſuccinctusvalid [36]Largus succinctus
45CIMEX hæmorrhousvalid [38]Leptoscelis haemorrhous
46CIMEX nobilisvalid [39]Calliphara nobilis
47COCCUS capenſisvalid [40]Conchaspis capensis
48TRIPS paradoxavalid [41]Thrips paradoxa


Amathusia phidippus, named in Centuria Insectorum as Papilio phidippus
Anartia jatrophae, named in Centuria Insectorum as Papilio Jatrophæ
Argynnis hyperbius, named in Centuria Insectorum as Papilio Hyperbius
Manduca sexta, named in Centuria Insectorum as Sphinx sexta
No.Name in Centuria...StatusCurrent name
49PAPILIO Ægiſthusjunior synonym [5][42]Graphium agamemnon
50PAPILIO Polydorusvalid [5][42]Atrophaneura polydorus
51PAPILIO Orontesvalid [5]Alcides orontes
52PAPILIO Phidippusvalid [5][42]Amathusia phidippus
53PAPILIO Medonvalid [5]Euphaedra medon
54PAPILIO Mnemevalid [5]Melinaea mneme
55PAPILIO Ædeavalid [5]Eterusia aedea
56PAPILIO Melitevalid [43]Enantia melite
57PAPILIO Scyllavalid [5][42]Catopsilia scylla
58PAPILIO Polybevalid [5]Atlides polybe
59PAPILIO Phileavalid [5]Phoebis philea
60PAPILIO Philomelavalid [5][42]Ypthima philomela
61PAPILIO Electovalid [5]Colias electo
62PAPILIO Helcitavalid [5]Aletis helcita
63PAPILIO Ideavalid [5][42]Idea idea
64PAPILIO Strilidorenomen dubium [5]unknown
65PAPILIO Eurydicevalid [5]Satyrodes eurydice
66PAPILIO Demophilevalid [5]Itaballia demophile
67PAPILIO ecclipſishoax[7]Gonepteryx rhamni
68PAPILIO Canacevalid [5]Kaniska canace
69PAPILIO Hypermneſtravalid [5][42]Elymnias hypermnestra
70PAPILIO Talausjunior synonym [5]Entheus priassus
71PAPILIO Ariadnevalid [5][42]Ariadne ariadne
72PAPILIO Atlitesvalid [5]Junonia atlites
73PAPILIO Jatrophævalid [5]Anartia jatrophae
74PAPILIO Didovalid [5]Philaethria dido
75PAPILIO Hyperbiusvalid [5][42]Argynnis hyperbius
76PAPILIO Cydippejunior homonym; rejected [42][Note 7]Cethosia cydippe
77PAPILIO Peleusjunior synonym [5]Entheus priassus
78PAPILIO Actorionvalid [5]Bia actorion
79PAPILIO Arciusvalid [5]Rhetus arcius
80PAPILIO Augiasvalid [5][42]Telicota augias
81SPHINX ſextavalid [44]Manduca sexta
82PHALÆNA gangisvalid [45]Creatonotos gangis
83PHALÆNA Phaloniavalid [46]Eudocima phalonia
84PHALÆNA heteroclitanomen dubium [47]Enantia melite?


Rhyothemis variegata, named in Centuria Insectorum as Libellula variegata
No.Name in Centuria...StatusCurrent name
85LIBELLULA carolinavalid [48]Tramea carolina
86LIBELLULA variegatavalid [49]Rhyothemis variegata
87HEMEROBIUS pectinicornisvalid [50]Chauliodes pectinicornis


Dolichovespula maculata, named in Centuria Insectorum as Vespa maculata
No.Name in Centuria...StatusCurrent name
88SIREX columbavalid [51]Tremex columba
89SPHEX pensylvanicavalid [52]Sphex pensylvanicus
90SPHEX cæruleajunior homonym of Sphex caerulea Linnaeus, 1758 (= Entypus caeruleus)[53]Chalybion californicum [52]
91VESPA maculatavalid [54]Dolichovespula maculata
92VESPA quadridensvalid [55]Monobia quadridens
93VESPA annularisvalid [56]Polistes annularis
94FORMICA binodis [Note 8]junior synonym [57]Tetramorium caespitum


Efferia aestuans, named in Centuria Insectorum as Asilus æstuans
No.Name in Centuria...StatusCurrent name
95ASILUS æſtuansvalid [58]Efferia aestuans


Ucides cordatus, named in Centuria Insectorum as Cancer cordatus
No.Name in Centuria...StatusCurrent name
96CANCER Dormiavalid [59]Dromia dormia
97CANCER Vocans [Note 9]valid [59]Uca vocans
98CANCER cordatusvalid [59]Ucides cordatus
99CANCER epheliticusvalid [59]Hepatus epheliticus
100CANCER paraſiticusnomen dubium [59]Tumidotheres maculatus?
101CANCER filiformisnomen dubium [60]Caprella lobata?
102ONISCUS linearisvalid [61]Idotea linearis


  1. Linnaeus' orthography has been preserved here as far as possible, including the use of ſ – the long s.
  2. Scarabæus Molosſus was previously included in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae (1758).
  3. At least two other species have been named "Cantharis bicolor". Cantharis bicolor Panzer, 1797 is a synonym of Cantharis pallida Goeze, 1777, while Cantharis bicolor Herbst, 1784 is a synonym of Cantharis thoracica (Olivier, 1790).[24]
  4. Linnaeus later named a species Tenebrio gigas in the 12th edition of Systema Naturae (1767), but corrected it to Tenebrio gages in the erratum.[29] That species is now Blaps gages, which may be synonymous with Blaps kollari Seidlitz.
  5. Linnaeus later referred to this species as Mantis pectinicornis.[1]
  6. Appears as "GRYLLUS brachypterus" in Centuria Insectorum Rariorum and as "GRYLLUS necydaloides" in Centuria Insectorum.
  7. Papilio cydippe Linnaeus, 1763 is a junior homonym of Papilio cydippe Linnaeus, 1761, both of which are rendered invalid by the preservation of Papilio cydippe Linnaeus, 1767.[42]
  8. Formica binodis Fabricius, 1775 is a different species, now called Messor barbarus.[57]
  9. Appears as "CANCER Vocaus" in Centuria Insectorum Rariorum; both versions include an autoreference to the 10th edition of Systema Naturae.


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