Proposal (16) to South American Classification Committee


Elevate Myrmeciza hemimelaena castanea to species rank


Effect on South American CL: elevate the subspecies Myrmeciza hemimelaena castanea Zimmer, 1932, to species rank.


Background and rationale: see Isler et al. (Auk 119: 362-378, 2002). A one-sentence synopsis is that a subspecies barely distinguishable on morphological grounds (castanea) has been shown to differ substantially from syntopic M. hemimelaena in voice and habitat preference.


Recommendation: Having followed this project for years, I strongly endorse the recommendation of Isler et al. to recognize M. castanea at the species rank.


English name: Not part of this proposal. (Isler et al. proposed Northern Chestnut-tailed Antbird for castanea and Southern Chestnut-tailed Antbird for hemimelaena. However, I wonder if we couldn't find a simpler name for castanea that would avoid the boring and longer compounding of the name; such compound names also suggest allospecies status, which is not the case. Also, castanea is much more restricted geographically than the relatively widespread castanea, and their distributions are not really north vs. south -- they are almost as much east vs. west.)


Van Remsen, 21 May 2002




From Mort & Phyllis Isler: “With regard to the English names of M. hemimelaena and M. castanea, we canvassed all of the coauthors of our recent Auk paper (119:362-378) except Thomas Valqui, whom we understand is in the field in Peru.  All three of the remaining authors expressed a strong preference for maintaining the English names of M. hemimelaena and M. castanea proposed in the paper.  We gather that you received Bret's comments directly.  The consensus of their comments is that they thought that the English names proposed in the paper were appropriate and that the known geographic range overlap between hemimelaena and castanea is too narrow to require changing them. With regard to the second possible objection, although the range of M. hemimelaena extends much further east than the range of M. castanea, the range of M. hemimelaena is entirely south of the Amazon/Marañón and the range of M. castanea, except for the extension into the San Martín region, is north of the Amazon/Marañón. Therefore, we feel that the descriptive names of "Southern" and "Northern" are valid. None of the other authors got very excited about our suggestion of possibly changing the English name of M. castanea to Zimmer's Antbird. After due consideration, therefore, we have to report that it is the authors' recommendation that the English names for M. castanea and M. hemimelaena remain as proposed in the paper. We appreciate your consulting us on the matter.”


From Schulenberg: "YES. (With the caveat that the English common names proposed by Isler et al. *must* be changed.)"


From Stiles: "The criteria for splitting seem sound. I do share your revulsion at the suggested English name, surely some geographical epithet would be more appropriate (as a number of antbirds have chestnut tails in any case)."


From Jaramillo: "YES, the elevation of castanea to species status is appropriate. I think the English names are unacceptable though and would suggest we figure out a new set of names now as the proposed names are not in wide usage yet."