Australian list taxonomy

Subject: Australian list taxonomy
From: Phil & Sue Gregory <>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 11:03:00 +1000
Some good points in your note about taxonomy David, I guess it simply means 
that in many cases we simply don't know in which box to place various taxa, and 
that there will not be a systematic organized approach, it just means results 
and opinions will filter through as research gets funded and written up.

The Helmeted Friarbird complex is clearly a grab-bag with a number of pretty 
distinctive taxa currently subsumed in it, differing in both voice and 
morphology and requiring a major analysis of all components to resolve. I was 
surprised to see the IOC elevate yorki to species level, but it is possibly 
correct, I  would have been more conservative and kept it with New Guinea 
Friarbird pending proper analysis of all the components of that group. At least 
the IOC is open to debate and input, you can query the rationale and have input 
about vernacular names. I have pushed long and hard to get rid of the imposed 
Clements names that suddenly appeared on that world checklist when the push for 
standardization began, with some degree of success, but it is a dynamic process 
and not set in stone, which I find laudable. Achieving consensus is always 
tough going, and what is meant by official Australian input? 

I am still hazy about who are the keepers of the Australian Checklist. I know 
Christidis and Boles compiled the last one, but is anyone overseeing/ 
moderating subsequent changes? The whole taxonomic field for Australian birds 
is in a state of flux, and there are already many changes to the last edition, 
with more pending, and we surely don't want to go another decade or more before 
a new edition gets published. Having an on-line version with annual updates 
would be an ideal which it might be nice to work towards, maybe something like 
this is in the works but if so it sure is not well-known.

I agree about having one official list, but it does get frustrating when one is 
aware of well-documented changes that are not yet adopted. Who are the keepers 
of the  Australian list, and how were they appointed?  It'd be nice to see a 
representative committee of interested parties with an overall co-ordinator, 
whjch is the norm in the UK, the states and much of Europe.

Phil Gregory


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