Proposal (197) to South American Classification Committee
Recognize Aratinga pintoi as a valid species
Effect on South American CL: This proposal would add a newly described species to the list.
Background: Silveira et al. (2005) described new species of parakeet in the Aratinga solstitialis complex. This species has been long overlooked based on the presumption that these birds represented either immatures, past hybridization, or dietary effects on captive birds. As the authors have shown that these birds appear this way in the wild and that the collected birds were adults not immatures and no wild hybrids are known, I feel they have demonstrated that this bird deserves recognition as a distinct species.
Recommendation: Based on the plumage and distributional information, I believe this paper documents a new species-level taxon. I recommend a "yes" vote to add this newly described parakeet to the South American list.
L.T. Silveira, F.C.T. de Lima, E. Höfling. 2005. A New Species Of Aratinga Parakeet (Psittaciformes: Psittacidae) From Brazil, With Taxonomic Remarks On The Aratinga solstitialis Complex. The Auk 122(1): 292-305.
Daniel Zimberlin, December 2005
Comments from Robbins: "YES. Silveira et al. (2005) have clarified a long misinterpreted problem within this species complex. I believe they convincingly dismissed the hypotheses of Joseph (1992) and their rationale (pointing out that plumage characters are greater among taxa within this complex than there are among currently recognized species in other Aratinga groups) for recognizing the birds on the north bank of the lower Amazon as a distinct species is valid.
"As an aside, given the relatively recent splits within the Aratinga solstitialis complex, solstitialis (sensu stricto) has a very restricted range and is now one of the rarest parrots in the world. It has been extirpated (as a result of the pet trade) from Guyana since at least the early 1980s (likely the 1970s) and given the relentless pet trade and the conversation of large areas to agriculture in the state of Roraima, Brazil, this species appears to be rapidly headed to extinction in the wild!!!"
Comments from Silva: " YES, although I am still wondering about how specimens from Sipaliwini savannas (southern Suriname) look like."
Comments from Thomas Arndt: "NO. At the moment there is no real indication that pintoi has to be treated as a valid species.
"1. The authors themselves show in table 1 that pintoi is only a paler version of solstitialis while the differences to jandaya and auricapillus are well shown.
"2. The argument that there are also slight differences between species in the "Aratinga leucophthalmus" GROUP (so called by the authors) is not justified as species within this group not only differ between colouration but also in body size as well as wing and tail length. Especially in their mentioned example A. mitrata and wagleri these differences are striking.
"3. In August 2005 I visited the Nova Roma area (Goiás) in search for Pyrrhura pfrimeri and surprisingly found hybrids between A. jandaya and A. auricapillus on several localities (mainly on the road to Iaciara; proper photos of these hybrids can be delivered). This shows that the members of the group are much more related than recent authors believe and that the arrangement of Aratinga jandaya and A. auricapillus listed as subspecies of A. solstitialis was not absolutely wrong.
"At the moment it rather looks that there are two species (A. solstitialis with subspecies pintoi and A. jandaya with subspecies auricapilla) than four species.
"4. The paper indicates that the distribution areas of solstitialis and pintoi are separated. In fact the knowledge about the real distribution of both is extremely incomplete. For example, I found good numbers of solstitialis alongside the road from Santa Helena (Venezuela) to Boa Vista exactly 50 km behind the border, an area not listed in the paper. After looking for weeks (during several years) within savannah, I learned by incident that the used habitat is not savannah but forest and edges of forest along hills, and that the birds only can be seen in savannah while flying from one hill area to another. This does not only holds for Roraima but also for nearby Guyana (I checked this) and possibly also for Suriname where it is not clear if pintoi could be found.
"A. solstitialis seems to inhabit an extremely small belt along the hills of Roraima and Guyana area, and I am quite sure that further investigations in such areas would enlarge the distribution area considerable. This means that there is even a chance that solstitialis meets pintoi.
"5. A practical argument: accepting the arguments for a valid species used for pintoi should consequently lead to a splitting of other species, too. ONLY TO MENTION A FEW EXAMPLES: A. pertinax easily could be separated in 7 species, Cyanoliseus patagonus in 3 species, and Bolborhynchus aurifrons into 4 species.
"It may be that pintoi really is a valid species but at the moment the presented arguments only support the status of a subspecies."
Comments from Remsen: "NO. I agree with Arndt's points, especially #5. There is no indication that this slight degree of plumage variation is associated with species boundaries in parrots, especially Aratinga.
Comments from Zimmer: "YES. I'm really not sure where to go with this one. The comments by Thomas Arndt are certainly thought-provoking. I will add that my experience with Aratinga in the Nova Roma/Iaciara region of Goiás was a bit different from his. I too encountered several small flocks in the area, and all of the adults that I studied appeared to be typical jandaya. There were no obvious auricapillus, and the only birds that appeared to be other-than-typical jandaya were birds that I took to be immatures. I reexamined my photos of a couple of these birds, and they are typical adult jandaya. This having been said, I have seen flocks of Aratinga in the Crasto region of Sergipe that appeared to be composed mostly of intermediate birds, with phenotypes representing nearly the complete range from typical jandaya to typical auricapillus, and this is within an area in which all birds would be expected (on range) to be auricapillus. So, it does appear as if hybridization occurs under natural conditions between two taxa in this group that are more different morphologically than are solstitialis and pintoi. Without knowing the extent and nature of the hybrid zone (which I don't think can be particularly broad), I'm not sure that its mere existence is proof of anything.
I've never been impressed by vocal differences between members of this complex, and I doubt that a formal analysis would reveal much divergence. I would echo Thomas Arndt's observation that solstitialis is not a true savanna bird, and that, at least in Roraima, it basically sticks to humid forest edge in the foothills, crossing savanna only to get from one site to another. However, even this forest is somewhat different floristically and in physiognomy from the Guianan forests that make up much of the intervening gap between the known ranges of solstitialis and pintoi, and I somehow doubt that the two actually meet. In the absence of any evidence of such contact, we can only look at how differences between solstitialis and pintoi stack up against other between-pair differences in the genus. Rightly or wrongly, it seems as though relatively slight differences in morphology have in recent decades at least, been accepted as evidence of species status within this group of birds. Until such time as the accepted yardstick is revised for the entire genus, I'm willing to go along with recognizing pintoi at the species-level, even though the distinctions may be on the thin side. As Mark points out, the recognition of the two as separate entities does make the conservation status of solstitialis more critical. I vote (tentatively) YES."
Comments from Nores: "NO. Coincido plenamente con Arndt que las diferencias con solstitialis, son sólo a nivel de subespecie. Con el otro criterio habría que pasar a especies otras subespecies de Aratinga y de otros géneros que son aún más diferentes. Además, el hecho de que la especie tenga una distribución aislada, que no se pone en contacto con solstitialis, más que apoyar la hipótesis de que se trata de una especie, apoya lo contrario: que se trata de una subespecie."
Comments from Pacheco: "YES. Sendo a diagnosticável Aratinga pintoi uma espécie savanícola, ela está sim separada de Aratinga solstitialis. Estou de acordo com o tratamento e a racionália apresentados pelos autores da descrição."
Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - This is the classic issue of whether to recognize at a species or subspecies level for two allopatric, distinct, but similar populations. The two do appear to be similar, but it is not just a question of pintoi being paler from what I could find in the publication, but also showing a much greater extension of green. The level of difference seems to be similar to what is seen comparing solstitialis, jandaya and auricapilla, so it seems logical to regard pintoi as a species also. Now whether the group should be lumped as two species, as suggested by Thomas, well I think that is a separate question that would need to be argued in a different proposal. The descriptions of habitat in the publication compared to the descriptions given in this discussion also appear to be different, with pintoi perhaps taking more open habitats than solstitialis? In summary, there are no known intermediates between solstitialis and pintoi, plumage differences are as great as those shown by other species in this complex, so I vote Yes on this one."
Comments from Stiles: "YES. I didn't vote on this one before because of ignorance.. but if I must, I´ll cast my vote for YES, though not without misgivings. Regarding the question of different levels of differentiation characterizing species vs. subspecies, this is a useful rule of thumb at least for preliminary analyses but is far from a law of nature, and if there are contrary indications - as in this case with habitat differences, etc. - I can be persuaded to go the other way. It is perhaps worth noting that our Brazilian colleagues, who are after all closest to the birds, seem happy with this decision. The points of Arndt are interesting, and perhaps genetic analysis would help here, but for the moment, a (tentative) YES."
Comments from Schulenberg: "YES. I initially was very enthusiastic about Aratinga pintoi. It made a great little story, with the recognition of this taxon hindered by the vagaries of "museum bias": most northern collections held solstitialis, whereas Brazilian collections were dominated by specimens of pintoi. Only when both were reviewed was the distinctive nature of pintoi revealed. I love it.
"Admittedly, the description of pintoi otherwise is weak in some areas (e.g., morphometric data are presented, but not analyzed to any degree). And as Arndt pointed out, our understanding of the relationship of solstitialis and pintoi may change when their distributions are better understood.
"But, on the basis of current knowledge these taxa are strongly allopatric. Furthermore, Arndt's comment that "pintoi is only a paler version of solstitialis" doesn't full justice to the differences between the two. So, on the basis of what we know now, I'll vote in favor of recognition of pintoi as a species."