LE RèGNE ANIMAL (The
Animal Kingdom) is the most famous work of the
Georges Cuvier . It sets out to describe the natural
structure of the whole of the animal kingdom based on comparative
anatomy , and its natural history . Cuvier divided the animals into
four embranchements ("Branches", roughly corresponding to phyla),
namely vertebrates, molluscs, articulated animals (arthropods and
annelids), and zoophytes (cnidaria and other phyla).
The work appeared in four octavo volumes in 1817; a second edition in
five volumes was brought out in 1829–1830 and a third, written by
twelve "disciples" of Cuvier, in 1836–1849. In this classic work,
Cuvier presented the results of his life's research into the structure
of living and fossil animals. With the exception of the section on
insects , in which he was assisted by his friend Pierre André
Latreille , the whole of the work was his own. It was translated into
English many times, often with substantial notes and supplementary
material updating the book in accordance with the expansion of
knowledge. It was also translated into German, Italian and other
languages, and abridged in versions for children.
Animal was influential in being widely read, and in
presenting accurate descriptions of groups of related animals, such as
the living elephants and the extinct mammoths , providing convincing
evidence for evolutionary change to readers including
Charles Darwin ,
although Cuvier himself rejected the possibility of evolution.
* 1 Context
* 2 Book
* 2.1 Editions
* 2.2 Translations
* 2.3 Approach
* 2.4 Contents
* 3 Reception
* 3.1 Contemporary
* 3.2 Modern
* 4 Notes
* 5 References
* 6 External links
As a boy,
Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) read the
Comte de Buffon
Comte de Buffon 's
Histoire Naturelle from the previous century, as well as
Fabricius . He was brought to Paris by Étienne Geoffroy
Saint-Hilaire in 1795, not long after the
French Revolution . He soon
became a professor of animal anatomy at the Musée National
Histoire Naturelle , surviving changes of government from
revolutionary to Napoleonic to monarchy. Essentially on his own he
created the discipline of vertebrate palaeontology and the
accompanying comparative method. He demonstrated that animals had
become extinct .
In an earlier attempt to improve the classification of animals,
Cuvier transferred the concepts of
Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu
Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu 's
(1748-1836) method of natural classification, which had been presented
in 1789 in Genera plantarum, from botany to zoology . In 1795, from a
"fixist" perspective (denying the possibility of evolution ), Cuvier
Linnaeus 's two unsatisfactory classes ("insects" and "worms")
into six classes of "white-blooded animals" or invertebrates :
molluscs, crustaceans, insects and worms (differently understood),
echinoderms and zoophytes. Cuvier divided the molluscs into three
orders: cephalopods, gastropods and acephala. Still not satisfied, he
continued to work on animal classification, culminating over twenty
years later in the Règne Animal. Blackcock and pin-tailed
sandgrouse . 1828 edition
For the Règne Animal, using evidence from comparative anatomy and
palaeontology —including his own observations —Cuvier divided the
animal kingdom into four principal body plans . Taking the central
nervous system as an animal's principal organ system which controlled
all the other organ systems such as the circulatory and digestive
systems, Cuvier distinguished four types of organisation of an
* I. with a brain and a spinal cord (surrounded by parts of the
* II. with organs linked by nerve fibres
* III. with two longitudinal, ventral nerve cords linked by a band
with two ganglia positioned below the oesophagus
* IV. with a diffuse nervous system which is not clearly discernible
Grouping animals with these body plans resulted in four
"embranchements" or branches (vertebrates, molluscs, the articulata
that he claimed were natural (arguing that insects and annelid worms
were related) and zoophytes (radiata )). This effectively broke with
the mediaeval notion of the continuity of the living world in the form
of the great chain of being . It also set him in opposition to both
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck . Lamarck claimed that species
could transform through the influence of the environment, while
Saint-Hilaire argued in 1820 that two of Cuvier's branches, the
molluscs and radiata, could be united via various features, while the
other two, articulata and vertebrates, similarly had parallels with
each other. Then in 1830, Saint-Hilaire argued that these two groups
could themselves be related, implying a single form of life from which
all others could have evolved, and that Cuvier's four body plans were
Cyligramma limacina , an illustration from Félix Édouard
Guérin-Méneville 's Iconographie du Règne
Animal de G. Cuvier
* Le Règne
Animal distribué d'après son organisation, pour servir
de base à l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction à
l'anatomie comparée (1st edition, 4 volumes, 1817) (Volumes I, II
and IV by Cuvier; Volume III by
Pierre André Latreille
Pierre André Latreille )
* --- (2nd edition, 5 volumes, 1829–1830)
* --- (3rd edition, 22 volumes, 1836–1849) known as the "Disciples
The twelve "disciples" who contributed to the 3rd edition were Jean
Victor Audouin (insects),
Gerard Paul Deshayes (molluscs), Alcide
Antoine Louis Dugès
Antoine Louis Dugès (arachnids), Georges Louis
Charles Léopold Laurillard (mammals in part),
Henri Milne Edwards (crustaceans, annelids, zoophytes, and mammals in
Francois Desire Roulin (mammals in part), Achille Valenciennes
Louis Michel Français Doyère (insects), Charles Émile
Blanchard (insects, zoophytes) and Jean Louis Armand de Quatrefages de
Bréau (annelids, arachnids etc.).
The work was illustrated with tables and plates (at the end of Volume
IV) covering only some of the species mentioned. A much larger set of
illustrations, said by Cuvier to be "as accurate as they were elegant"
was published by the entomologist Félix Édouard Guérin-Méneville
in his Iconographie du Règne
Animal de G. Cuvier, the nine volumes
appearing between 1829 and 1844. The 448 quarto plates by Christophe
Annedouche , Canu,
Eugène Giraud , Lagesse, Lebrun, Vittore Pedretti,
Plée and Smith illustrated some 6200 animals.
Animal was translated into languages including English,
German and Italian.
Many English translations and abridged versions were published and
reprinted in the nineteenth century; records may be for the entire
work or individual volumes, which were not necessarily dated, while
old translations were often brought out in "new" editions by other
publishers, making for a complex publication history. A translation
was made by John Edward Gray and published by Whittaker, Treacher and
Co. in 1824; another by Edward Griffith and others was published by G.
B. Whittaker in 1827–1832 and many times reprinted (up to 2012 and
eBook format); another by Henry MacMurtrie was published by G.
Henderson in 1834–1837. A translation was made and published by the
William MacGillivray in Edinburgh in 1839–1840.
Another version by
Edward Blyth and others was published by William S.
Orr and Co. in 1840. An abridged version by an "experienced teacher"
was published by Longman, Brown, Green and Longman in London, and by
Stephen Knapp in Coventry, in 1844. Kraus published an edition in New
York in 1969. Other editions were brought out by H.G. Bohn in 1851 and
W. Orr in 1854. An "easy introduction to the study of the animal
kingdom: according to the natural method of Cuvier", together with
examination questions on each chapter, was made by Annie Roberts and
published in the 1850s by Thomas Varty.
A German translation by H.R. Schinz was published by J.S. Cotta in
1821–1825; another was made by Friedrich Siegmund Voigt and
published by Brockhaus.
An Italian translation by G. de Cristofori was published by Stamperia
Carmignani in 1832.
A Hungarian translation by Peter Vajda was brought out in 1841.
Spiny dogfish . 1828 edition
Each section, such as on reptiles at the start of Volume II (and the
entire work) is introduced with an essay on distinguishing aspects of
their zoology. In the case of the reptiles, the essay begins with the
observation that their circulation is so arranged that only part of
the blood pumped by the heart goes through the lungs; Cuvier discusses
the implications of this arrangement, next observing that they have a
relatively small brain compared to the mammals and birds, and that
none of them incubate their eggs.
Next, Cuvier identifies the taxonomic divisions of the group, in this
case four orders of reptiles, the chelonians (tortoises and turtles),
saurians (lizards ), ophidians (snakes ) and batracians (amphibians ,
now considered a separate class of vertebrates), describing each group
in a single sentence. Thus the batracians are said to have a heart
with a single atrium , a naked body (with no scales), and to pass with
age from being fish-like to being like a quadruped or biped.
There is then a section heading, in this case "The first order of
Reptiles, or The Chelonians", followed by a three-page essay on their
zoology, starting with the fact that their hearts have two atria. The
structure then repeats at a lower taxonomic level, with what Cuvier
notes is one of Linnaeus's genera, Testudo , the tortoises, with five
sub-genera. The first sub-genus comprises the land tortoises; their
zoology is summed up in a paragraph, which observes that they have a
domed carapace , with a solid bony support (the term being
"charpente", commonly used of the structure of wooden beams that
support a roof). He records that the legs are thick, with short digits
joined for most of their length, five toenails on the forelegs, four
on the hind legs.
Then (on the ninth page) he arrives at the first species in the
volume, the Greek tortoise,
Testudo graeca . It is summed up in a
paragraph, Cuvier noting that it is the commonest tortoise in Europe,
living in Greece, Italy, Sardinia and (he writes) apparently all round
the Mediterranean. He then gives its distinguishing marks, with a
highly domed carapace, raised scales boldly marked with black and
yellow marbling, and at the posterior edge a bulge over the tail. He
gives its size—rarely reaching a foot in length; notes that it lives
on leaves, fruit, insects and worms; digs a hole in which to pass the
winter; mates in spring, and lays 4 or 5 eggs like those of a pigeon.
The species is illustrated with two plates.
Table of the
Animal Kingdom based on Cuvier's Règne
Penny Cyclopaedia , 1828 Ground beetles (green tiger beetle
at bottom). 1828 edition.
The classification adopted by Cuvier to define the natural structure
of the animal kingdom, including both living and fossil forms, was as
follows, the list forming the structure of the Règne Animal. Where
Cuvier's group names correspond (more or less) to modern taxa, these
are named, in English if possible, in parentheses. The table from the
Penny Cyclopaedia indicates species that were thought to belong
to each group in Cuvier's taxonomy . The four major divisions were
known as embranchements ("branches").
* I. Vertébrés. (
* Mammifères (
Mammals ): 1. Bimanes, 2. Quadrumanes, 3. Carnassiers
Carnivores ), 4. Rongeurs (
Rodents ), 5. Édentés (
Edentates ), 6.
Pachyderms ), 7.
Ruminants ), 8. Cétacés
* Oiseaux (
Birds ): 1. Oiseaux de proie (
Birds of prey ), 2.
Passerines ), 3. Grimpeurs (
Piciformes ), 4. Gallinacés
Gallinaceous birds ), 5. Échassiers (Waders ), 6. Palmipèdes
Reptiles , inc. Amphibians): 1. Chéloniens (Chelonii ),
2. Sauriens (
Lizards ), 3. Ophidiens (
Snakes ), 4. Batraciens
* Poissons (
Fishes ): 1. Chrondroptérygiens à branchies fixes
Chondrichthyes ), 2. Sturioniens ou Chrondroptérygiens à branchies
libres (Sturgeons ), 3. Plectognates (
Tetraodontiformes ), 4.
Syngnathidae ), 5. Malacoptérygiens abdominaux, 6.
Malacoptérygiens subbrachiens, 7. Malacoptérygiens apodes, 8.
* II. Mollusques. (
* Céphalopodes. (
* Ptéropodes. (
* Gastéropodes (
Gastropods ): 1. Nudibranches (
Nudibranchs ), 2.
Inférobranches, 3. Tectibranches, 4. Pulmonés (
Pulmonata ), 5.
Pectinibranches, 6. Scutibranches, 7. Cyclobranches.
* Acéphales (
Bivalves etc.): 1. Testacés, 2. Sans coquilles.
* Brachiopodes. (
Brachiopods , now a separate phylum)
* Cirrhopodes. (
Barnacles , now in Crustacea)
* III. Articulés. (Articulated animals: now
Arthropods and Annelids)
* Annélides (
Annelids ): 1. Tubicoles, 2. Dorsibranches, 3.
* Crustacés (
Crustaceans ): 1. Décapodes (
Decapods ), 2.
Stomapodes (Stomatopods ), 3. Amphipodes (
Amphipods ), 4. Isopodes
Isopods ), 5. Branchiopodes (
* Arachnides (
Arachnids ): 1. Pulmonaires, 2. Trachéennes.
* Insectes (
Insects , inc.
Myriapods ): 1. Myriapodes, 2.
Thysanura ), 3. Parasites, 4. Suceurs, 5. Coléoptères
Coleoptera ), 6. Orthoptères (
Orthoptera ), 7. Hémiptères
Hemiptera ), 8. Névroptères (
Neuroptera ), 9. Hyménoptères
Hymenoptera ), 10. Lépidoptères (
Lepidoptera ), 11. Ripiptères
Strepsiptera ), 12. Diptères (
* IV. Zoophytes. (
Zoophytes , now Cnidaria] and other phyla)
* Échinodermes (
Echinoderms ): 1. Pédicellés, 2. Sans pieds.
* Intestinaux (Intestinal worms): 1. Cavitaires, 2. Parenchymateux.
* Acalèphes (
Jellyfish and other free-floating polyps): 1. Fixes,
* Polypes (
Cnidaria ): 1. Nus, 2. À polypiers.
* Infusoires (
Infusoria , various protistan phyla): 1. Rotifères
Rotifers ), 2. Homogènes.
Quinarian classification of birds
William Sharp Macleay
William Sharp Macleay , in his 1821 book Horae
Entomologicae which put forward the short-lived "
Quinarian " system of
classification into 5 groups, each of 5 subgroups, etc., asserted that
in the Règne
Animal "Cuvier was notoriously deficient in the power of
legitimate and intuitive generalization in arranging the animal
series". The zoologist
William John Swainson
William John Swainson , also a Quinarian,
added that "no person of such transcendent talents and ingenuity, ever
made so little use of his observations towards a natural arrangement
as M. Cuvier."
Magazine of Natural History of 1829 expressed surprise at the
long interval between the first and second editions, surmising that
there were too few scientific readers in France, apart from those in
Paris itself; it notes that while the first volume was little changed,
the treatment of fish was considerably altered in volume II, while the
section on the Articulata was greatly enlarged (to two volumes, IV and
V) and written by M. Latreille. It also expressed the hope that there
would be an English equivalent of Cuvier's work, given the popularity
of natural history resulting from the works of
Thomas Bewick (A
History of British
Birds 1797–1804) and George Montagu
Ornithological Dictionary , 1802). The same review covers Félix
Édouard Guérin-Méneville 's Iconographie du Règne
Animal de M. le
Baron Cuvier, which offered illustrations of all Cuvier's genera
(except for the birds).
The Foreign Review of 1830 broadly admired Cuvier's work, but
disagreed with his classification. It commented that "From the
comprehensive nature of the Règne Animal, embracing equally the
structure and history of all the existing and extinct races of
animals, this work may be viewed as an epitome of M. Cuvier's
zoological labours; and it presents the best outline, which exists in
any language, of the present state of zoology and comparative
anatomy." The review continued less favourably, however, that "We
cannot help thinking that the science of comparative anatomy is now so
far advanced, as to afford the means of distributing the animal
kingdom on some more uniform and philosophical principles,—as on the
modifications of those systems or functions which are most general in
the animal economy". The review argued that the vertebrate division
relied on the presence of a vertebral column, "a part of the
organization of comparatively little importance in the economy"; it
found the basis of the mollusca on "the general softness of the body"
no better; the choice of the presence of articulations no better
either, in the third division; while in the fourth it points out that
while the echinoderms may fit well into the chosen scheme, it did not
apply "to the entozoa, zoophyta, and infusoria, which constitute by
much the greatest portion of this division." But the review notes
that "the general distribution of the animal kingdom established by M.
Cuvier in this work, are founded on a more extensive and minute survey
of the organization than had ever before been taken, and many of the
most important distinctions among the orders and families are the
result of his own researches."
Writing in the Monthly Review of 1834, the pre-Darwinian evolutionist
surgeon Sir William Lawrence commented that "the Regne
Cuvier is, in short, an abridged expression of the entire science. He
carried the lights derived from his zoological researches into kindred
but obscure parts of nature." Lawrence calls the work "an arrangement
of the animal kingdom nearly approaching to perfection; grounded on
principles so accurate, that the place which any animal occupies in
this scheme, already indicates the leading circumstances in its
structure, economy, and habits."
The book was in the library of
HMS Beagle for
Charles Darwin 's
The Origin of Species
The Origin of Species (1859), in a chapter on the
difficulties facing the theory, Darwin comments that "The expression
of conditions of existence, so often insisted on by the illustrious
Cuvier, is fully embraced by the principle of natural selection ."
Darwin continues, reflecting both on Cuvier's emphasis on the
conditions of existence, and
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 's theory of
acquiring heritable characteristics from those Cuvieran conditions:
"For natural selection acts by either now adapting the varying parts
of each being to its organic and inorganic conditions of life; or by
having adapted them during long-past periods of time: the adaptations
being aided in some cases by use and disuse , being slightly affected
by the direct action of the external conditions of life, and being in
all cases subjected to the several laws of growth. Hence, in fact, the
law of the Conditions of Existence is the higher law; as it includes,
through the inheritance of former adaptations, that of Unity of Type."
Philippe Taquet wrote that "the Règne
an attempt to create a complete inventory of the animal kingdom and to
formulate a natural classification underpinned by the principles of
the 'correlation of parts'.." He adds that with the book "Cuvier
introduced clarity into natural history, accurately reproducing the
actual ordering of animals." Taquet further notes that while Cuvier
rejected evolution, it was paradoxically "the precision of his
anatomical descriptions and the importance of his research on fossil
bones", showing for instance that mammoths were extinct elephants,
that enabled later naturalists including Darwin to argue convincingly
that animals had evolved.
* ^ The date 1817 is printed on the title pages, but the books
actually appeared before 2 December 1816.
* ^ "Conditions d'existence" is used in Cuvier's Introduction to
volume 1 of Règne Animal, p. 6.
* ^ A B C Anon (1835). Life of Cuvier. Gentleman's Magazine and
Historical Review, Volume 3 (Google eBook). pp. 451–463.
* ^ Waggoner, Ben. "
Georges Cuvier (1769-1832)". UCMP Berkeley.
Retrieved 28 December 2014.
* ^ Cuvier, Georges. Mémoire sur une nouvelle distribution des
animaux à sang blanc, lu le 21 Floréal de l'an III (10 mai 1795), à
la Société d'
Histoire Naturelle de Paris.
* ^ Georges Cuvier, Second Mémoire sur l'organisation et les
rapports des animaux à sang blanc, lu le 11 Prairial de l'an III (30
mai 1795), à la Société d'
Histoire Naturelle de Paris.
* ^ Reiss, John (2009). Not by Design: Retiring Darwin\'s
Watchmaker. University of California Press. p. 108. ISBN
* ^ De Wit, Hendrik Cornelius Dirk De Wit. Histoire du
Développement de la Biologie, Volume III, Presses Polytechniques et
Universitaires Romandes, Lausanne, 1994, p. 94-96. ISBN 2-88074-264-1
* ^ Richards, Robert J. (2 February 2009). The Meaning of
Evolution: The Morphological Construction and Ideological
Reconstruction of Darwin\'s Theory. University of Chicago Press. pp.
52–54. ISBN 978-0-226-71205-5 .
* ^ Schultes, F. Welter. "Cuvier, G. 1817". AnimalBase. Retrieved
28 December 2014.
* ^ Whitehead, P. J. P. (1967). "The Dating of the 1st Edition Of
Cuvier\'s Le Règne
Animal Distribué D\'après Son Organisation".
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300–301. doi :10.3366/jsbnh.19126.96.36.1990 .
* ^ A B Cowan, C. F. (November 1976). "On the Disciples\' Edition
of Cuvier\'s Regne Animal" (PDF). Journal of the Society of
Bibliography of Natural History. 8 (1): 32–64.
* ^ Guérin-Méneville, Felix-Edouard (1829–1844). Iconographie
du règne animal de G. Cuvier: ou, représentation d'aprés nature de
l'une des espèces les plus remarquables, et souvent non encore
figurées, de chaque genre d'amimaux . Avec un texte descriptif mis au
courant de la science (50 parts in 9 volumes, quarto ed.). Paris: J.
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* ^ Cuvier, Georges. "The
Animal Kingdom: English". WorldCat.
Retrieved 27 December 2014.
* ^ "ti:Le Règne animal au:Cuvier (German)". WorldCat. Retrieved
29 December 2014.
* ^ "ti:Le Règne animal au:Cuvier (Italian)". WorldCat. Retrieved
29 December 2014.
* ^ "ti:Le Règne animal au:Cuvier (Hungarian)". WorldCat.
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* ^ McCarthy, Eugene M. "Baron Georges Cuvier". MacroEvolution.net.
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* ^ Loudon, John Claudius; Charlesworth, Edward; Denson, John
(1829). Magazine of natural history. printed for Longman, Rees, Orme,
Brown, and Green. pp. 360–364.
* ^ A B C D Anon (1830). Baron Cuvier. The Foreign Review, Volume
5. Black, Young and Young. pp. 342–379.
* ^ A B The Monthly Review. Hurst, Robinson. 1834. p. 570.
* ^ "Beagle Library: The
Animal Kingdom". Darwin Online. Retrieved
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* ^ Darwin, Charles.
On the Origin of Species
On the Origin of Species (1st ed.). John
Murray. p. 206.
* ^ Taquet, Philippe (2007). Huxley, Robert, ed. Georges Cuvier.
The Great Naturalists. Thames & Hudson. pp. 209–211.
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* Cuvier, Georges ; Latreille, Pierre André . Le Règne