Saturday, September 21, 2013

Many Names

The Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus developed the binomial nomenclature taxonomic classification system over many years starting with the publication in 1735 of the first of several editions of Systema Naturae. It was based on a scheme begun a couple of hundred years earlier by the Bauhin brothers but is attributed to Linnaeus because he refined and used it consistently showing that it can be used to effectively classify all the world’s plants and animals. The Linnaeus system is used to this day. After more basic divisions, each plant or animal is allocated into a class, an order within that class, a family and a possibly a sub-family, a genus, a species and maybe a subspecies according to its structure and apparent similarity to other species. The final division – species or subspecies is based on differences from others in the same genus. The name of the taxonomist who selects the species name and the date of publishing that name is recorded. For now the Western Ground Parrot is class Aves (Birds), order Psittaciformes, family Psittacidae, sub-family Psittacinae, genus Pezoporus, species flaviventris. (taxonomist North, date 1911). There have been several iterations before this name was arrived at.

Slow communication led to some confusion in early days of European settlement. The first Ground Parrot skins were sent to England from Sydney soon after settlement began in 1788.  A taxonomist, Latham, named the bird Psittacus formosus (Parrot beautiful) in 1790. As another parrot had been given the name formosus, another taxonomist, Kerr, renamed the Ground Parrot in 1792, this time wallicus, latinisation of New South Wales. In 1793, another taxonomist gave it the name of terrestris (of the ground), but it was too late and although that was an appropriate name, Kerr’s name had priority. Another taxonomist, Perry, published the name Psittacus viridis (Parrot green) in 1810, but he was far too late for the name to be adopted permanently.

The skins arriving at the Goteborg Natural History Museum in Sweden in 1864 were labelled as Pezoporus formosus (Latham). I am not sure when the genus name Pezoporus (Walking) first came into use.

Gregory Mathews (1876 to 1949) became a taxonomist specializing in Australian birds early in the twentieth century, and produced a major work in twelve volumes: The Birds of Australia. He became infamous for splitting species into subspecies, many of which were subsequently shown to be unwarranted. He accumulated a collection of 30,000 Australian bird skins and 5,000 books on birds. The collection of skins ended up in the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in 1931, and the books went to the National Library of Australia, Canberra.

Mathews allocated names for the Ground Parrot from different regions: Pezoporus terrestris leachii (Mathews, 1912)  Tasmanian Ground Parrot; Pezoporus terrestris dombraini (Mathews 1914) South Australian Ground Parrot; Pezoporus melanorrhabdotus (replacement name for P. wallicus, Mathews 1924). [This last name refers to the name given by Billardiere to the Ground Parrot - Black-spotted Parrot.] All of those names were reduced to Pezoporus wallicus wallicus (Kerr), when it was determined that all of the birds of the eastern side of Australia were one taxon. The Western Ground Parrot was named Pezoporus flaviventris (flaviventris means yellow belly which is a distinguishing feature) by Alfred North in 1911. Mathews made it a subspecies: Pezoporus wallicus flaviventris. In 2009, genetic work showed the Western Ground  Parrot to be a separate species in its own right and so the binomial name Pezoporus flaviventris (North 1911) has now been re-instated while the Eastern Ground Parrot has reverted to Pezoporus wallicus (Kerr, 1792).

            Condon, H.T. (1975). Checklist of the Birds of Australia. Part 1. R.A.O.U.
Robin, L. (2001). The Flight of the Emu: A Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001. Melbourne University Press.

Slater, P. (1980). Rare and Vanishing Australian Birds. Rigby.

No comments:

Post a Comment