VSNET discussion topics: Ornithology a Bit

(All messages are excerpt; see original messages for the complete details).

(vsnet-chat 4260)

Somewhat of topic, but it does relate to vsnet webpages : -

A friend of mine is an avian nomenclaturist [actually, he's a human whose interested in the nomenclatural rules of avian taxonomy], and out of the "blue" so to speak, I've just received this totally unexpected email from him [and I don't know why the topic came up, cos I didn't mention it to him, and I don't even remember making any such posting!], which I forward below

>You refer to "the Blue Flycatcher" in one of your VSNET postings, yet the
>bird depicted on the homepage appears to be a 'composite' with the stance
>of the Siberian Blue Robin, Luscinia cyane, and the general coloration
>(especially the extensive black on the throat and breast) of the
>Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana. Both birds occur in the
>Japan area, and  I'm curious as to whether they are confused in reality.
Well, Dr Kato, are they ever confused with each other?

(vsnet-chat 4262)

The Siberian Blue Robin (the other Latin name is Erithacus cyane) is a passenger species at this altitude of the lattitude of Kyoto (they breed in moutains >1000m around here). Yes, the posture of these two birds are usually different. The Blue-and-white Flycatcher usually has a more upright stance, while the Siberian Blue Robin has a more horizontal posture. Well, I have learned from the author of the icon that the "composite" was an unavoidable (at that time) deformation on a small bitmap. However, the coloration is as a whole correct, and photographs on the page are purely of the Blue-and-white Flycatcher.

Taichi Kato
(vsnet-chat 4278)

PS re blue flycatcher : thanks for the info Dr Kato, I've forwarded it. I'll leave it alone there, because I now the comment >>(the other Latin name is Erithacus Cyane)<<* is going to end up with me being accosted with lectures on "senior homonyms and junior synonyms" and what have you from Steve, whether I like it or not! Of course, what many people don't know is that formally the binomial nomenclature for species definition should also include the surname of the first describing author and the year date of publication. This has in the past led to people defining or re-defining animal species [traditional split into the "lumpers" and "splitters" camps], sometimes merely to get their names linked to a "new" species definition. Doesn't happen much nowadays though, but interesting in the light of some current threads. Fortunately for the biological nomenclature people they have formal rules to try and avoid problems, but it's still confusing, and can cause name changes of well known creatures... ...that's why "brontosaurs" are now properly known as "apatosaurs"... ...it is all a matter of publication priority.

(vsnet-chat 4287)

Well, the rule only applies to scientific names, but not to common names. If any of your language doen't have a common name to some biological species, one has rights to propose a common name, which may differ from author to author. The selection between these common names are a matter of either preference, priority and everything else. Scientific names, as you know, are not always permanently fixed, mainly because of the availability of new techinques to examine the relationship between species and subspecies, and orders, etc. The best renowned work in ornithology is Sibley and Monroe's classification based on DNA hybridization. This technique has proven that the Paradise Flycatchers (formally ordered after the old world flycatchers, including the "blue") are more akin to crows. If this result is widely accepted, the order name will be inevitably changed, though many of authorities tend to be reluctant to introduce the change. [ah, what was the original thread ;-)]

Taichi Kato
(vsnet-chat 4290)

...and so the circle is complete!

I of course didn't ought to continue on this "thread", cos it is OT, but I can't resist the closure of the circle. The person who originally asked the question re the flycatchers was something of a helper outer on matters nomenclatural to Charles Sibley until the latters death a couple of years ago.

Steve is also a keen believer in much of Sibley and Munroes work. However, as most of our matters intellectual tend to be discussed in an alehouse we occasionally frequent, I've often forgot it all by the next day ;)

Elucidation as to the difference twixt taxonmy and nomenclature has always been useful to me though, and if more folk understood this difference the numerous schema that exist out there for CV pigeonholing wouldn't be such a confusing mess.

An incipient and somewhat small webpage exists at this URL


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