defining Endemics

To: "John Leonard" <>
Subject: defining Endemics
From: "Philip A. Veerman" <>
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 15:41:14 +1100
This does not answer John's question but complicates it. The Concise Oxford Dictionary says "endemic" means "regularly found among". This does not include any concept of exclusivity. Therefore on that basis, the Thylacine, Night Parrot or Painted Snipe are not endemic to Australia, because they are not regularly found here. This seems odd, as at least two of them are certainly native to and restricted to Australia and these species have always been so. However, on that basis, the Rabbit and the Common Starling certainly are endemic to Australia, because they are regularly found here. Clearly this dictionary meaning is not the way we use the word.
In our usual context, such as Webster's Dictionary has it, endemic means two different things, quite different from the Concise Oxford Dictionary meaning. Sadly, people rarely define which meaning they are using: native to or restricted to. In the first meaning the Peregrine Falcon and Barn Owl (etc.) and Latham's Snipe are endemic to Australia but in the second meaning they are not. This is because they occur naturally in Australia and many other places. Webster's Dictionary does not distinguish between restricted to or native to, so that makes the question about migrants an ambiguous one. However their third meaning refers to peculiar to.
Hence the value in the rather nasty sounding word "autochthonous", which relates to a species that still exists in the region in which it first developed. Such as kangaroos are autochthonous to Australia & New Guinea. This is probably a more important measure than is "endemic", even though we don't always know the answer and the dividing line is unclear. The Grey Falcon probably evolved in Australia but the genus Falco probably did not. So where is the dividing line? Biology doesn't always have them, so sometimes it confuses us to try to find them.
-----Original Message-----
From: John Leonard <>
To: <>
Date: Monday, 28 January 2002 14:31
Subject: [BIRDING-AUS] endemics

What is the definition of an Australian endemic?

Could you, for example include spp which only breed in Australia, but winter
further north, or does the sp have to stay in Australia all the time as

Is there a list of Australian endemics?

John Leonard (Dr)

PO Box 243, Woden, ACT 2606, Australia
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