Proposal (#223) to South American Classification Committee

Change name of Bahia Spinetail from Synallaxis cinereus to S. whitneyi

Effect on SACC list: This is an issue of nomenclature that if passed would replace our current species epithet with another.

Background: Pachego and Gonzaga (1995) described a new species of Synallaxis from Bahia, which they named S. whitneyi. Later, Bret and Fernando (Whitney and Pacheco 2001) treated whitneyi as a junior synonym of S. cinerea, and that's what we have in our current classification.

New information: Stopiglia & Raposo's (2006) analysis of the type description of S. cinereus indicates that this name actually refers to Parulus ruficeps Spix, which actually should remain a synonym of S. frontalis ... Or at least that's the way I understand it. Rather than further expose my limited understanding of nomenclature and The Code, I paste in below the Abstract of the paper, encourage you to look at the pdf, and await comments from those who know their nomenclature:

"Synallaxis whitneyi Pacheco and Gonzaga, 1995, was described from specimens collected in Bahia, Brazil. Some years later, following analysis of the specimens used by Wied (1831) to describe Synallaxis cinereus, Whitney and Pacheco (2001) considered S. whitneyi a junior synonym of S. cinereus because three of the specimens in Wied's series were identical to those collected in Bahia by Pacheco and Gonzaga (1995). They also designated a lectotype for Synallaxis cinereus. Our analysis of the description of Synallaxis cinereus reveals that Wied was merely providing a new name for Parulus ruficeps Spix, 1824, to avoid problems of homonymy (Wied 1831). The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature is explicit in such cases, stating that if an author proposes a new species-group name as a replacement (nomen novum) for an earlier available one, then the two names are objective synonyms and have the same name-bearing type. Thus, the syntypes of S. cinereus are the specimens previously used by Spix in describing Parulus ruficeps and not those used by Wied (1831) in his description (and subsequently referred to as syntypes in the literature). The lectotype of Synallaxis cinereus proposed by Whitney and Pacheco (2001) is invalid, as it is not a former syntype. Therefore, the correct name for the Bahia Spinetail is Synallaxis whitneyi Pacheco and Gonzaga, 1995."

Recommendation: I have none, except that I assume that since this paper was reviewed independently by those who know their Code, including Zootaxa editor Storrs Olson.


PACHECO, J. F., AND L. P. GONZAGA. 1995. A new species of Synallaxis of the ruficapilla/infuscata complex from eastern Brazil (Passeriformes: Furnariidae). Ararajuba 3: 3-11.

STOPIGLIA, R., AND M. A. RAPOSO. 2006. The name Synallaxis whitneyi Pacheco and Gonzaga, 1995, is not a synonym of Synallaxis cinereus Wied, 1831 (Aves: Passeriformes: Furnariidae). Zootaxa 1166: 49-55.

WHITNEY, B. M. AND J. F. PACHECO. 2001. Synallaxis whitneyi Pacheco and Gonzaga, 1995 is a synonym of Synallaxis cinereus Wied, 1831. Nattereria 2: 34-35.

Van Remsen, June 2006

Note: Just to make sure the change and its rationale all makes sense, I contacted Alan Peterson (who maintains the Zoonomen web page ( for an outside opinion, and he responded that he found no problems and that the substance of the article seemed correct and convincing



Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - Sometimes nomenclature reads more like law than biology, in other words it is confusing and needs to be deciphered by those who are truly knowledgeable on it. The paper and ok by Alan Peterson satisfy me in voting YES on this one."

Comments from Stiles: "YES, the change seems straightforward to me, even if the nomenclatural situation had been highly confused ... "