Scientific names

To: "" <>
Subject: Scientific names
From: Martin Cake <>
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2014 04:22:56 +0000
Mike I take your point but I'm not sure I agree with your premise that 
vernacular names are more 'useful'.

I realise this is a wellworn topic but for the sake of answering Steve's 
request for clarification (and defending the taxonomists!):

Look again at Steve's question and you will note the specific name (species 
epithet) of the bird in question has not changed – basalis.
Nor will it ever change for the type population (which I think is our 
Australian bird?) as there are strict rules of precedence, unless disputed due 
to obscure early synonyms. So the specific name is in fact very very stable – 
arguably more so than the vernacular.

Only the genus name has changed, usually to reflect new understanding of 
relationships (shared ancestry) between related species. In this case splitting 
Australo-Papuan from African bronze-cuckoos. So the Latin binomial contains 
more information (implied ancestry) than the English vernacular. If you know a 
bit of Latin the binomial also contains more useful information than the 
vernacular ie. 'bronze' and 'base' (of tail feathers).

So I would argue the Latin is both more stable, and more useful in several 
ways. Except perhaps in a search engine, but even then the term basalis should 
be just as 'useful' as Horsfield's?

And Steve to answer your question, no there is no 'definitive' list, but the 
'official' list is supposedly Birdlife Australia's list as it takes over from 
C&B 2008. However many Australian birders are increasingly preferring IOC 
because it's online, updated very regularly, international (with good 
Australian representation), and defensible (ie they usually give reasons and 
citations for their decisions). I don't want to start a war here but let me 
quote part of the BirdLife website: "In undertaking this work, BirdLife does 
not pretend to be an authority on the taxonomic status of the world’s birds 
(and indeed does not have the resources or aspiration to become this)". Plus 
some recent decisions eg failure to split western White-naped Honeyeater are 
beyond belief and seem to imply BirdLife don't believe in DNA. Why would any 
sane birder want use a taxonomy that openly confesses it's not an authority, 
and explicitly rejects genetic evidence???? But Steve if change annoys you, IOC 
might not be the best choice, it's one of the more dynamic taxonomies.

Sorry, end of rant

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