Bob Inglis has been posting some photos of Sooty Oystercatchers and raising
some questions about the two recognized races. My (medical) eye was drawn to
the seeming mis-spelling of the ?Spectacled? race, opthalmicus, so I wrote
to Bob privately to raise the spelling issue. He wrote back (see his letter
at the end of this posting) and my interest was piqued further, resulting in
the correspondence below. I copy it here because I found the exercise
interesting (and enjoyed the Web and text research that it involved) and
hope that there may others (or at least one??) out there who will also find
it an interesting (if rather minor) issue. WARNING: Readers troubled by
mildly obsessional behaviour and/or pedantry might be wise to stop now and
press their delete button!
In reply to Bob Inglis (see copy of his letter below):
This ?opthalmicus?/?ophthalmicus? issue is a fascinating one, Bob. I feel
pretty certain that the ?ophthalmicus? spelling is correct (from the Greek
root ? see below*). It is of course a commonly used word in medicine.
However even in medicine it is commonly incorrectly written, and pronounced,
?opthalmic?. I suspect that all the birding references you have found using
this spelling are equally erroneous (including HANZAB sadly). I note also
that there are plenty of entries on Google involving the words ?opthalmic,
opthalmicus, etc? ? but few of the sites are professional, and presumably
all are equally incorrect. Interesting. Richard
*The word ophthalmic comes from the
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_language> Greek root ophthalmos meaning
eye. (From Wikipedia.)
Follow-up: Having written the above ?off the cuff? (and perhaps somewhat
smugly) I thought perhaps I should extend myself a little and do some simple
research to see if there was more to this story than first meets the eye (if
you?ll excuse the pun). And indeed there is!
As you correctly noted HANZAB does indeed use ?opthalmicus? (Vol 2), but in
the following fashion: ?Nominate fuliginosus, coastal Aust. except where
opthalmicus (sic) Castelnau and Ramsay, occurs ????? (p. 740), indicating
that the name was given by Castelnau and Ramsay (see below*) with this
spelling (presumably incorrectly). Similarly in the legend to Plate 57 on p.
744. However on pp. 746 & 747 there are three further uses of the word, but
in this case spelt ?ophthalmicus?! So HANZAB is inconsistent.
Next I thought I?d have a look at the Handbook of the Birds of the World
(HBW, Vol 3) - which on p. 324 uses ?opthalmicus? several times and states:
??.emendation of name to ophthalmicus is not justified.?
[Emendation noun a correction by emending; a correction resulting from
So, it seems that the scientifically correct name for this sub-species of
Sooty Oystercatcher is indeed Haematopus fuliginosus opthalmicus (as named
by a French naturalist and an Australian zoologist/ornithologist in 1877)
even though this is recognised as an incorrect spelling of ?ophthalmicus?
(which presumably is the word actually intended by the taxon authors).
Even more interesting. Richard
PS I note that Ken Simpson uses the scientifically correct spelling in
Simpson & Day but that the other three Australian field-guides have
?emended? the word to ?ophthalmicus? ? contrary to HBW?s warning.
François Louis de la Porte, comte de Castelnau
>From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
François Louis Nompar de Caumont La Force, comte de Castelnau (
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/December_25> 25 December
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1810> 1810 ?
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_4> 4 February
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1880> 1880) was a
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_history> naturalist. (Some sources
give his year of birth as <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1812> 1812.) Known
also as François Laporte or Francis de Castelnau
Born in London, he studied <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_history>
natural history in Paris. From 1837 to 1841 he led a scientific expedition
to <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada> Canada where he studied the fauna
of the Canadian lakes and the political systems of
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Canada> Upper and
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_Canada> Lower Canada (roughly
corresponding to the modern provinces of
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario> Ontario and
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec> Quebec) and of the
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States> United States.
>From 1843 to 1847, with two <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botanist>
botanists and a <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermist> taxidermist, he
crossed <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_America> South America from
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peru> Peru to
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil> Brazil, following the watershed
between the <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_River> Amazon and
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%ADo_de_la_Plata> La Plata river systems.
He served as the French <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consul> consul in
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahia> Bahia in 1848; in
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siam> Siam from 1848 until 1862, and in
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne%2C_Australia> Melbourne, Australia
from 1864 to 1877.
The genus <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laportea> Laportea of tropical
stinging trees is named after him.
Hoax Australian fish
Through no fault of his own, Castelnau's name is attached to an Australian
hoax. " <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ompax_spatuloides> Ompax spatuloides",
a supposed <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganoid> ganoid fish said to have
been discovered in <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1872> 1872 and named by
Castelnau, was a joke originally directed at
Staiger, the director of the Brisbane Museum. Staiger forwarded a sketch and
description of the made-up fish to Castelnau, who duly described it.
Ramsay, Edward Pierson (1842 - 1916)
Zoologist, Museum curator and Ornithologist
Born: 3 December 1842 Ashfield, New South Wales, Australia. Died: 16
December 1916 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Edward Pierson Ramsay was Curator of the Australian Museum 1874-94 and was a
consulting ornithologist 1894-1909. He was a founder of the Linnean Society
of New South Wales in 1874 and played a prominent role in government
zoological matters particularly fisheries.
Bob Inglis wrote:
Your point on the spelling is a good one and one that I have been concerned
HANZAB uses 'my' spelling (opthalmicus) but the new "Shorebirds of
Australia" (Geering et
al) uses the spelling you suggest. I opted for the HANZAB version as I
prefer to think of Birds Australia as being the 'authority' on all things to
do with wild birds in Australia.
The field guides are divided. (Nothing new there!)
I can certainly understand your concern and I agree that it would be more
correct with the extra 'h' in the name.
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