Taxonmy & Lyrebirds

To: bird <>
Subject: Taxonmy & Lyrebirds
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 08:50:45 +1000
Greetings all,

I would be grateful for some advice on taxonomy from any birding-aus expert.

Alec Chisholm named the lyrebirds of the Granite Belt (southern Qld and
northern NSW) as a new species, Menura edwardi:

    Chisholm, A.H., (1921).  A new Menura: Prince Edward's Lyrebird.   Emu
20, 221-223 

In that 1921 article Chisholm wrote:

    "Gould admitted that the grounds upon which he separated  M. victoriae
from the type-bird were slender; nevertheless, he allowed the species to
stand, and it has held good as a variety to this day.  In the latest
variant, as suggested earlier, the case for separation is stronger.  Nor do
I think additional material (from such a "novel" locality) will tend to
disprove this view."

Chisholm then discusses the differences:

    "The upper surface is fuscous, as against brownish (bay brown) in the
type of the genus and auburn in M. victoriae.  The under-surface is
mouse-grey, compared to light fuscous (hair brown) in both superba and
victoriae.  The colour of the two large tail feathers is tawny or russet, as
against hazel in the type-bird and chestnut in victoriae - i.e., the new
bird is of a lighter colour than the type, while the Victorian bird is
darker.  Total length, 35 inches; wing, 11 1/2 inches; tarswus 5 inches.
These figures are slightly larger than those of the typical superba."

    "Further material must be obtained before the precise relation of this
bird to the type species can be definitely established.  Provisionally, I
suggest for this "Queensland superba" the name of Menura edwardi in honour
of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.  ... "

Chisholm had arranged for one male to be taken of which he wrote:

    "The specimen was examined in Brisbane, after which it was sent to Mr A.
J. Campbell for critical comparison with skins in the "H. L. White
Collection" in the Melbourne Museum.  To this national collection it was
subsequently donated."

The edwardi population is now regarded as a only sub-species, but I note
that Schodde & Mason at p. 62 of their Directory of Passerines, show:

    8115.  Menura novaehollandiae edwardi Chisholm, 1921

This suggests to me that if the differences had been sufficient to sustain
separate species ranking, that very meagre description would have been
accepted as naming it as a new species, and that specimen lodged with the
Melbourne Museum would be the type specimen.  So my first question:

QUESTION:   Was such a brief description then regarded as sufficient to
establish and name a new species?

A further matter:  the correct name for the Superb Lyrebird should be Menura
superba, not M. novaehollandiae.  Schodde & Mason discuss this at page 63,
but then they end: 

    "Thus novaehollandiae Latham, postdates, and is therefor junior to,
superba Davies.  Nevertheless, novaehollandiae Latham, is retained here,
under Art. 80 of the Code, pending application to the International
Commission of Zoological Nomenclature for suppression of superba Davies as
unused senior synonym."

QUESTION:   Does that translate as some Australian authority (Schodde &
Mason, perhaps) seeking to legitimise the illegitimate novaehollandiae?

I fear it might be, thus destroying my hopes of living long enough to see
those superb birds restored to their rightful and highly appropriate superba

Advice, please?



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