Re: Taxonomy & Lyrebirds

To: <>
Subject: Re: Taxonomy & Lyrebirds
From: "Murray Lord" <>
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 22:29:30 +1100
Re: Taxonomy & LyrebirdsDear Syd,

As none of the "experts" you addressed your questions to has responded, I will 
have a go.  So it's subject to the caveat that I may not know what I am talking 

Question 1 was "Was such a brief description then regarded as sufficient to 
establish and name a new species?".
I believe the answer to this is yes.  In fact if you go back through the 
literature you will find the majority of the original descriptions of species 
were that brief, if not even shorter.  Last year I looked at an original 
description of a Sri Lankan bird.  Paraphrasing a little, what it said was 
"there are not enough museum specimens available to determine if the Sri Lankan 
bird is the same as the form in southern India, but if it is different I 
suggest the following name should apply to it".  That author is now credited 
with having named that bird!

Things have changed since.  Article 13.1 of the International Code of 
Zoological Nomenclature (online at ) now 
provides that in order for a new description to be valid, it must "state in 
words characters that are purported to differentiate the taxon".  I would think 
the Chisholm description probably satisfies that requirement anyway.

Question 2 related to the name of the Superb Lyrebird: "Does that translate as 
some Australian authority (Schodde & Mason, perhaps) seeking to legitimise the 
illegitimate novaehollandiae?"

This particular problem is mentioned on page 6 of the new Australian checklist. 
 It was also considered in two articles published last year in the Bulletin of 
the British Ornithologists Club (I. McAllen, Existing usage and the names of 
some Australian birds and R. Schodde et al,  Stabilising the nomenclature of 
Australasian birds by invalidation and suppression of disused and dubious 
senior names).  I will send you the relevant pages.  Apparently it all turns on 
uncertainty when Latham's publication was actually published; whether it was 
1801 or 1802.  So it's unclear which name was in fact published first.  A 
ruling has been sought to clarify things.  The paper by Dick Schodde says it's 
anticipated that superba will lose out.

Simple really ;-)

Murray Lord

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