Pierre André Latreille

Pierre André Latreille (29 November 1762 – 6 February 1833) was a French zoologist, specialising in arthropods. Having trained as a Roman Catholic priest before the French Revolution, Latreille was imprisoned, and only regained his freedom after recognising a rare beetle species he found in the prison, Necrobia ruficollis.

He published his first important work in 1796 (Précis des caractères génériques des insectes), and was eventually employed by the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. His foresighted work on arthropod systematics and taxonomy gained him respect and accolades, including being asked to write the volume on arthropods for George Cuvier's monumental work, Le Règne Animal, the only part not by Cuvier himself.

Latreille was considered the foremost entomologist of his time, and was described by one of his pupils as "the prince of entomologists".

Pierre André Latreille
Latreille Pierre André 1762-1833
Pierre André Latreille
Born29 November 1762
Died6 February 1833 (aged 70)
Alma materUniversity of Paris
Scientific career
FieldsEntomology, arachnology, carcinology
InstitutionsMuséum National d'Histoire Naturelle
Author abbrev. (zoology)Latreille


Place Latreille Brive
Latreille's birthplace in Brive-la-Gaillarde

Early life

Pierre André Latreille was born on 29 November 1762 in the town of Brive, then in the province of Limousin, as the illegitimate child of Jean Joseph Sahuguet d'Amarzit, général baron d'Espagnac, who never recognzed him, and an unknown mother, who abandoned him at birth; the surname "Latreille" was formally granted to him in 1813, and derives from a nickname of unclear provenance.[1] Latreille, effectively orphaned from his earliest age, but had influential protectors – first a physician, then a merchant from Brive, and later a baron and his family (after the baron's death), who brought him to Paris in 1778.[2]

He studied initially in Brive and in Paris at the Collège du Cardinal-Lemoine attached to the University of Paris to become a priest.[1] He entered the Grand Séminaire of Limoges in 1780, and left as a deacon in 1786. Despite being qualified to preach, Latreille later wrote that he had never carried out his functions as a minister, although for a few years he signed the letters he wrote "l'Abbé Latreille" ("the Reverend Latreille") or "Latreille, Prêtre" ("Latreille, Priest").[1]

Even during his studies, Latreille had taken on an interest in natural history, visiting the Jardin du Roi planted by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, and catching insects around Paris. He received lessons on botany from René Just Haüy, which brought him in contact with Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.[1]

Necrobia ruficollis

Necrobia ruficollis
Discovering Necrobia ruficollis while in prison saved Latreille's life.

After the fall of the Ancien Régime and the start of the French Revolution, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was declared in 1790, which required priests to swear an oath of allegiance to the state. Latreille failed to do so and was therefore imprisoned in November 1793 under threat of execution.[1]

When the prison's doctor inspected the prisoners, he was surprised to find Latreille scrutinising a beetle on the dungeon floor.[2] When Latreille explained that it was a rare insect, the physician was impressed, and sent the insect to a 15-year-old local naturalist, Jean Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent. Bory de St.-Vincent knew Latreille's work, and managed to obtain the release of Latreille and one of his cell-mates.[2] All the other inmates were dead within one month.[2] The beetle had been described by Johan Christian Fabricius in 1775,[3] but recognising it had saved Latreille's life.

Thereafter, Latreille lived as a teacher and corresponded with various entomologists, including Fabricius. In 1796, and with Fabricius' encouragement, Latreille published his Précis des caractères génériques des insectes at his own expense. He was briefly placed under house arrest in 1797, and his books were confiscated, but the influence of Georges Cuvier, Bernard Germain de Lacépède and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (who all held chairs of zoology at the recently instituted Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle) succeeded in freeing Latreille.[1] In 1798, Latreille was appointed to the museum, where he worked alongside Lamarck, curating the arthropod collections, and published a number of zoological works.[1]

First Empire

Following the death of Guillaume-Antoine Olivier in 1814, Latreille succeeded him as titular member of the Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France.[1] In the following few years, Latreille was especially productive, producing important papers for the Mémoires du Muséum, all of the volume on arthropods for George Cuvier's Le Règne Animal ("The animal kingdom"), and hundreds of entries in the Nouveau Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle on entomological subjects.[1] As Lamarck became blind, Latreille took on an increasing proportion of his teaching and research work. In 1821, Latreille was made a knight of the Légion d'honneur.[1] In 1829 he succeeded Lamarck as professor of entomology.[4]

Later years

From 1824, Latreille's health deteriorated. He handed his lectures over to Jean Victoire Audouin and took on several assistants for his research work, including Amédée Louis Michel Lepeletier, Jean Guillaume Audinet-Serville and Félix Édouard Guérin-Méneville.[1] He was instrumental in the founding of the Société entomologique de France, and served as its honorary president.[1]

Latreille's wife became ill in 1830 and died in May of that year; the date of Latreille's marriage is unclear, and his request to be released from his vow of celibacy was never acknowledged.[1] He resigned his position at the museum on 10 April 1832, in order to move to the country and thereby avoid the cholera epidemic. He returned to Paris in November, and died of bladder disease on 6 February 1833.[1] He had no children but was survived by a niece whom he had adopted.[2]


A 3D model based on a micro-CT scan of the polychaete worm Lumbrineris latreilli, which is named after Latreille.

The Société entomologique raised the money to pay for a monument to Latreille. This was erected over Latreille's grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery, and comprised a 9-foot (2.7 m) obelisk with various inscriptions, including one to the beetle which had saved Latreille's life: "Necrobia ruficollis Latreillii salvator" ("Necrobia ruficollis, Latreille's saviour").[2]

As testimony to the high esteem in which Latreille was held, many books were dedicated to him, and up to 163 species were named in his honour between 1798 and 1850.[1] Taxa commemorating Latreille include:[5]

  • Lumbrineris latreilli Audouin & H. Milne-Edwards, 1833
  • Cecrops latreillii Leach, 1816
  • Apseudes latreillii (H. Milne-Edwards, 1828)
  • Orbinia latreillii (Audouin & H. Milne-Edwards, 1833)
  • Latreillia Roux, 1830
  • Cilicaea latreillei Leach, 1818
  • Bittium latreillii (Payraudeau, 1826)
  • Macrophthalmus latreillei (Desmarest, 1822)
  • Eurypodius latreillei Guérin, 1828
  • Sphex latreillei Lepeletier de Saint Fargeau, 1831


Latreille named the rough woodlouse Porcellio scaber in 1804, and also established the genus Porcellio (1804), the sub-order Oniscidea (1802), the order Isopoda (1817) and the class Malacostraca (1802).

Latreille produced a significant body of scientific work, extending across several fields. He was described by Johan Christian Fabricius as entomologorum nostri aevi princeps ("the foremost entomologist of our time"), and by Jean Victoire Audouin as Entomologiae Princeps ("the prince of entomology").[1]

Taxonomy and systematics

Latreille was significant as the first person to attempt a natural classification of the arthropods.[6] His "eclectic method" of systematics incorporated evidence from all available characters without assuming a pre-defined goal; Latreille repeatedly dismissed anthropocentrism and teleology.[1]

As well as many species and countless genera, the names of many higher taxa are also attributable to Latreille,[1] including Thysanura, Siphonaptera, Pycnogonida, Ostracoda, Stomatopoda, Decapoda, Amphipoda, Isopoda, Xiphosura, Melipona and Myriapoda.


Although Latreille named many species, his primary interest was in describing genera.[1] He introduced the concept of the "type species", a species to which the name of a genus is firmly attached.[1] Similarly, he favoured the method of naming families after one of the constituent genera, rather than some defining feature of the group, implicitly designating a type genus for the family.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Claude Dupuis (1974). "Pierre André Latreille (1762–1833): the foremost entomologist of his time" (PDF). Annual Review of Entomology. 19: 1–14. doi:10.1146/annurev.en.19.010174.000245.
  2. ^ a b c d e f David M. Damkaer (2002). "A celebration of Crustacea". The Copepodologist's Cabinet: A Biographical and Bibliographical History, Volume 1. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, Volume 240. American Philosophical Society. pp. 114–130. ISBN 978-0-87169-240-5.
  3. ^ Lúcia M. Almeida & Kleber M. Mise (2009). "Diagnosis and key of the main families and species of South American Coleoptera of forensic importance". Revista Brasileira de Entomologia. 53 (2): 227–244. doi:10.1590/S0085-56262009000200006.
  4. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pierre-André Latreille" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5. ^ Hans G. Hansson. "Pierre André Latreille". Biographical Etymology of Marine Organism Names. Göteborgs Universitet. Archived from the original on 27 October 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  6. ^ David A. Grimaldi & Michael S. Engel (2005). "Diversity and evolution". Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–41. ISBN 978-0-521-82149-0.

External links

Adela (moth)

Adela is a genus of the fairy longhorn moth family (Adelidae). Among these, it belongs to subfamily Adelinae.


Astacidea is a group of decapod crustaceans including lobsters, crayfish and their close relatives.


The Batrachia are a clade of amphibians that includes frogs and salamanders, as well as the extinct allocaudates, but not caecilians. The name Batrachia was first used by French zoologist Pierre André Latreille in 1800 to refer to frogs, but has more recently been defined in a phylogenetic sense as a node-based taxon that includes the last common ancestor of frogs and salamanders and all of its descendants. The idea that frogs and salamanders are more closely related to each other than either is to caecilians is strongly supported by morphological and molecular evidence, they are for instance the only vertebrates able to raise and lower their eyes, but an alternative hypothesis exists in which salamanders and caecilians are each other's closest relatives as part of a clade called the Procera, with frogs positioned as the sister taxon of this group.

Bipes (lizard)

Bipes is a genus of amphisbaenians found only in Mexico, the sole living member of the family Bipedidae. Commonly known as ajolotes, they are carnivorous, burrowing reptiles, but unlike other species of amphisbaenians, they possess two stubby forelimbs placed far forward on the body. The shovel-like limbs are used to scrape away soil while burrowing, in a manner similar to a mole. Evidence for their occurrence in the United States is reviewed by Somma (1993).


Branchiopoda is a class of crustaceans. It comprises fairy shrimp, clam shrimp, Cladocera, Notostraca and the Devonian Lepidocaris. They are mostly small, freshwater animals that feed on plankton and detritus.


The Chrysomelinae are a subfamily of leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae). Some 2000 species are found, with worldwide distribution. The best-known member is the notorious Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), an important agricultural pest.


The Crambidae are the grass moth family of lepidopterans. They are variable in appearance, the nominal subfamily Crambinae (grass moths) taking up closely folded postures on grass stems where they are inconspicuous, while other subfamilies include brightly coloured and patterned insects which rest in wing-spread attitudes.

In many classifications, the Crambidae have been treated as a subfamily of the Pyralidae or snout-moths. The principal difference is a structure in the ears called the praecinctorium, which joins two tympanic membranes in the Crambidae, and is absent from the Pyralidae. The latest review by Munroe and Solis, in Kristensen (1999), retains the Crambidae as a full family.


Crambinae is a large subfamily of the lepidopteran family Crambidae, the crambid snout moths. It currently includes over 1,800 species worldwide. The larvae are root feeders or stem borers, mostly on grasses. A few species are pests of sod grasses, maize, sugar cane, rice, and other Poaceae. The monophyly of this group is supported by the structure of the tympanal organs and the phallus attached medially to the juxta.

Taxonomists' opinions differ as to the correct placement of the Crambidae, some authorities treating them as a subfamily of the family Pyralidae. If this is done, the present group would be demoted to tribe status, as Crambini.


Cucujoidea is a superfamily of beetles. They include many fungus beetles, as well as lady beetles ("ladybugs" or "ladybirds"). Also included are a diversity of lineages of "bark beetles" unrelated to the "true" bark beetles (Scolytinae), which are weevils (superfamily Curculionoidea).


The Decapoda or decapods (literally "ten-footed") are an order of crustaceans within the class Malacostraca, including many familiar groups, such as crayfish, crabs, lobsters, prawns, and shrimp. Most decapods are scavengers. The order is estimated to contain nearly 15,000 species in around 2,700 genera, with around 3,300 fossil species. Nearly half of these species are crabs, with the shrimp (about 3000 species) and Anomura including hermit crabs, porcelain crabs, squat lobsters (about 2500 species) making up the bulk of the remainder. The earliest fossil decapod is the Devonian Palaeopalaemon.


The Galerucinae are a large subfamily of the leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae), containing about 15,000 species in more than 1000 genera, of which about 500 genera and about 8000 species make up the flea beetle tribe Alticini.The division into tribes is more a matter of tradition than based on modern research. Some genera, for example Yingaresca, are better considered incertae sedis due to a general lack of knowledge. And while a good case can be made for some tribes – namely the Alticini and Galerucini – being all but monophyletic even in their traditional delimitation, others, such as Luperini, appear to be just paraphyletic assemblages of primitive and more basal genera.


Longitarsus is a genus of beetles in the family Chrysomelidae. It is the most speciose genus of flea beetles, comprising over 700 species, and has a cosmopolitan distribution.


The superfamily Papilionoidea (from the genus Papilio, meaning "butterfly") contains all the butterflies except for the moth-like Hedyloidea.

The members of the Papilionoidea may be distinguished by the following combination of characters:

The body is smaller and less moth-like.

The wings are larger.

The antennae are straight and clubbed or hooked as in the skippers.

The caterpillars do not spin cocoons in which to pupate.

The pupae are angular rather than rounded.Recent phylogenetic analyses suggest the traditionally circumscribed Papilionoidea are a paraphyletic group, and that skippers and hedylids are true butterflies that should be included within the Papilionoidea superfamily to reflect cladistic relationships.


The family Scarabaeidae as currently defined consists of over 30,000 species of beetles worldwide, often called scarabs or scarab beetles. The classification of this family has undergone significant change in recent years. Several subfamilies have been elevated to family rank (e.g., Pleocomidae, Glaresidae, Glaphyridae, Ochodaeidae, and Geotrupidae), and some reduced to lower ranks. The subfamilies listed in this article are in accordance with those in Bouchard (2011).


Scarabaeoidea is a superfamily of beetles, the only subgroup of the infraorder Scarabaeiformia. Around 35,000 species are placed in this superfamily and some 200 new species are described each year. Its constituent families are also undergoing revision presently, and the family list below is only preliminary.


The Scorpionidae (burrowing scorpions or pale-legged scorpions) make up the superfamily Scorpionoidea. The family was established by Pierre André Latreille, 1802.


Smerinthus is a Holarctic genus of hawkmoths in the family Sphingidae. It was described by Pierre André Latreille in 1802. Adults have conspicuous eyespots on the hindwings.


The Sphinginae are a subfamily of the hawkmoths (Sphingidae), moths of the order Lepidoptera. The subfamily was first described by Pierre André Latreille in 1802. Notable taxa include the pink-spotted hawkmoth (Agrius cingulata), being a very common and recognizable species, the death's-head hawkmoths (Acherontia species) of Silence of the Lambs fame, and Xanthopan morganii with its enormous proboscis.


Termitidae (Higher termites) is a family of termites. They are evolutionary most advanced termites group. Higher termites species gut have a high capacity to degrade lignocellulose.

They containing the following subfamilies:

Termitidae Latreille, 1802

Subfamily Apicotermitinae Grassé & Noirot, 1954 [1955] (synonym: Indotermitidae Roonwal & Sen Sarma in Roonwal, 1958)

Subfamily Cubitermitinae Weidner, 1956

Subfamily Foraminitermitinae Holmgren, 1912 (synonym: Pseudomicrotermitinae Holmgren, 1912)

Subfamily Macrotermitinae Kemner, 1934, nomen protectum [ICZN 2003] (synonyms: Acanthotermitinae Sjöstedt, 1926, nomen rejiciendum [ICZN 2003]; Odontotermitini Weidner, 1956

Subfamily Nasutitermitinae Hare, 1937

Subfamily Sphaerotermitinae Engel & Krishna, 2004a

Subfamily Syntermitinae Engel & Krishna, 2004a (synonym: Cornitermitinae Ensaf et al., 2004, nomen nudum)

Subfamily Termitinae Latreille, 1802 (synonyms: Microcerotermitinae Holmgren, 1910b; Amitermitinae Kemner, 1934 (disputed); Mirocapritermitinae Kemner, 1934; Mirotermitini Weidner, 1956; Capritermitini Weidner, 1956)

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