THE NAME SYNALLAXIS CINEREA
The article by Stopiglio & Raposo suggesting that the name Synallaxis cinereus Wied, 1831, was proposed as a new name for Parulus ruficeps Spix, 1824, is of unusual interest.
First, a quick look at what Wied wrote suggests that this is not what he did. This remains to be confirmed as the original text has to be examined in context and the one translation obtained so far needs to be confirmed.
Second, if true there is a knock-on effect on nomenclature in the genus Synallaxis that could be seriously destabilising. Peters (1951: 82) listed Parulus ruficeps Spix, 1824, and specifically the female only, as a preoccupied name in Synallaxis (being applied to a widespread species) which had been noted by von Pelzeln in 1859 with the result that Pelzeln coined for that a new name Synallaxis frontalis which has been in use for almost 50 years. If the name Synallaxis cinerea is instead the earliest new name for Parulus ruficeps then it has priority and, all other things being equal, would displace the long-established name frontalis with consequent confusion between cinerea and frontalis references in the literature.
Third, all other things are not equal, or are not likely to be considered so. Thus a proper conclusion might be the suppression of the name cinereus by means of an application to the ICZN.
Fourth, any such application would have to take account of several related issues and determine their relevance and persuade the Commission of the appropriate interpretations of them. These issues include:
a) it has been suggested that the types associated with Synallaxis cinerea, based on its independent establishment, may constitute a series that is composite. This could seriously complicate any attempt to suppress the name.
b) is there a male of Parulus ruficeps ... which has perhaps been equated to something else .. and is that in some way implicated in this?
c) what von Pelzeln and others have written needs to be studied. It may be that von Pelzeln's reputation, not known to the writer, would suggest that he would have examined the facts surrounding Wied's name cinerea when writing his classic work (1868-70) or earlier and would have satisfied himself that it was properly introduced an available.
In these circumstances it is suggested to SACC that this case, despite the initial vote on it, be considered insufficiently explored to be safely resolved and that it be further investigated.
Edward C. Dickinson, Editor, The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of Birds of the World, 3rd. edition (2003).