Proposal (427) to South American Classification Committee


Transfer Saltator rufiventris from the Cardinalidae to the Thraupidae



Effect of Proposal: This would remove the Saltator rufiventris from the Cardinalidae and place it in the Thraupidae, with the genus name in parentheses.


Background:  Here’s our Note from current SACC classification:


“44. Inclusion of these species in Saltator has been questioned (Hellack and Schnell 1977, REFs). Saltator rufiventris is definitely not a saltator but a tanager, closely related to Delothraupis and Dubusia (Klicka et al. 2007).”



New information:  Klicka et al. (2007) presented the genetic data that show that Chlorospingus is embedded in the Emberizidae.  Their tree is as follows:





Sorry about the lousy resolution of this screen grab.  The tree is tough to read, but the upper clade in the greenish area is true Saltator, and if you skip down a couple of groups, you will see S. rufiventris, strongly supported as the sister to Dubusia + Delothraupis.  Although other nodes in the area are weakly supported, the other genera are typical core thraupine genera: Chlorornis, Anisognathus, and Buthraupis.  Regardless of support, it would be difficult to imagine that the S. rufiventris group would somehow bounce out of the thraupid tree with additional gene or taxon-sampling.  For now, I would say that is safe to move rufiventris to precede Dubusia and Delothraupis.


By the way, S. rufiventris has always been recognized as a weird saltator, back to the original analyses of Hellack & Schnell.  No other Saltator shares its high elevation, humid-slope Andean distribution.  [S. cinctus comes closest, but that species seems even less likely to be a true Saltator -- I’ll bet on Buarremon/Arremon offshoot].  In plumage color and pattern, rufiventris actually shares some features with Dubusia and Delothraupis.


Even if Delothraupis and Dubusia are merged, as in Meyer de Schauensee (1970), including such a morphologically divergent form in an expanded Dubusia would probably assault most people’s tastes on the limits of within-genus heterogeneity, so I think the best thing to do is tentatively list it as “Saltatorrufiventris, with this explained in a Note, and defer generic limits to a different proposal.


Recommendation: The genetic data are solid for placement next to Dubusia + Delothraupis, and this group goes somewhere in Burns’ true tanagers; so, I recommend a YES.




KLICKA, J., K. [J.] BURNS, AND G. M. SPELLMAN. 2007. Defining a monophyletic Cardinalini: A molecular perspective. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45: 1014-1032.


Van Remsen, March 2010




Comments from Robbins: “YES.  Klicka et al.’s (2007) genetic data clearly establish that rufiventris is not closely related to the other saltators.”


Comments solicited from Kevin Burns: “I pretty much agree with everything you wrote in the proposal.  I can add that these results are confirmed in the large analysis of all the data, although of course these results are not published. In the unpublished results, support for the "Saltator" rufiventris + Dubusia + Delothraupis clade is strong (100% bootstrap support in a maximum likelihood analysis).  So the committee can be assured that these results will be consistent with the final tree when published. I also agree it's a good idea to wait to decide what genus to put this species in.  Either it will get a unique name or there will have to be some major lumping within "core" tanagers.”


Comments from Stiles:  YES – rufiventris is clearly not a Saltator but a tanager.  Its generic status remains to be clarified – either it goes into Dubusia or requires a new generic name, as it seems always to have been placed in Saltator since its description (fide Hellmayr).”


Comments from Nores: “YES, está bien claro en el análisis de Klicka et al. que “Saltator” rufiventris no es un Saltator sino un Thraupidae cercano a Dubusia y Delothraupis. Lo que sí, no me parece muy importante el hecho de que habite la zona alta (2800-4000 m) de las montañas en los Andes para separarlo, ya que hay otras especies de Saltator que llegan también bastante alto. Por ejemplo, S. striatipectus llega hasta 2500 m, S. nigriceps desde 1700 a 2900 m (Ridgely & Greenfield. Birds of Ecuador) y S. aurantiirostris hasta 3500 m. En cuanto al género no me parece bien que se lo ponga como Saltator rufiventris junto a Dubusia y Delothraupis, yo lo pondría provisoriamente como Dubusia rufiventris con una nota aclaratoria.”


Comments from Cadena: “YES. But I think we cannot simply move this species without proposing a new generic allocation for it; if we do this, we would have Saltator in two separate parts of our classification and this would be problematic. A classification that tells us that Dubusia, Delothraupis, and "Saltator" rufiventris form a clade would have a lot more information than one in which monotypic genera are maintained, so I would favor lumping them in a single genus.”


Comments from Stotz: “NO.  I can’t vote for this change as long as Saltator rufiventris remains in Saltator.  So my vote is no, unless we place it in an expanded Dubusia.  I am uncertain whether I see 3 monotypic genera as a problem in this group, but I definitely consider “Saltator” as unacceptable.  Seems like dealing with the generic treatment should happen at the same time that the taxon is repositioned at the family level.  An expanded Dubusia is certainly acceptable as a short-term fix for this, and may be the long-term answer.  If people don’t want Dubusia to include this and Delothraupis, then I think we should live with a misplaced Saltator rufiventris until somebody writes a paper proposing a new generic name for it.”


Additional comment from Remsen:  “Concerning Daniel and Doug’s concerns, listing the taxon as “Saltatorrufiventris (quotes around genus) clearly indicates to me anyway that it’s not really a Saltator and that there is a problem there – ugly, yes, but preferable, at least to me, to maintaining it in the WRONG family.  I’ll take an ugly, awkward designation over erroneous information any day.  Also, merging Delothraupis into Dubusia is something that should probably by done, but putting rufiventris in the same genus as those two would immediately create the most morphologically heterogeneous genus in the Passeriformes.”


Comments from Zimmer: “[YES].  Ugh!  Data are clear that rufiventris needs to be transferred.  But I don’t like any of the options after that.  It seems premature to erect a new monotypic genus, or to lump rufiventris and Delothraupis into an expanded, grab bag Dubusia, given that the dust still hasn’t settled on these issues.  Doing either of those things and then having to reverse course when new data comes forth would be destabilizing.  I also concede Daniel’s point that it would be odd to have Saltator occupying two completely different places in our classification, even if we do use quotation marks in one slot.  It almost seems as if we could convey the most information with the least amount of potentially short-lived change, by leaving rufiventris where it is, but enclosing the generic allocation in quotes (“Saltator” rufiventris), with an accompanying footnote to make clear that it is not a Saltator nor a Cardinalid, but that its generic allocation remains uncertain.  So, I’m a strong YES on transferring it, but a weak NO on the proposed method for doing it.  I could easily be talked into any of the three options proposed:  1) Van’s proposal to move it and place it in quotation marks, 2) Daniel’s proposal to move it and lump it into Dubusia, or 3) Doug’s proposal to leave it until we know exactly what to do with it.  How’s that for indecision?”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES – I would rather move with the information we have, as it is solid, than wait for further publications. However, I am uncomfortable with then putting it as “Saltator” as this will be not only ugly but confusing. We do have to keep in mind that this list is a standard, and thousands of people are using it.  Having a Saltator in the wrong family will be just problematic, and if the issue is not resolved and people publish country or local lists based on the SACC, they would have to use “Saltator” under the Tanagers, it could get ugly fast. I f there is to be a sub vote here, I vote NO on keeping it in “Saltator.”  My preference is to search to see if rufiventris has ever had its own genus if so, then put it into that.  Otherwise choose Dubusia or Delothraupis and put it in one of them there, given that this is also an uncomfortable situation we could use the quotation marks there, i.e. “Delothraupis” rufiventris, as this is actually closer to the truth than leaving it in Saltator in quotations.  I think we have to be a bit more decisive than leaving it for later in “Saltator.”  My ugly solution at least does not break up a genus into two families, which seems much uglier and confusing.”


Additional comments from Remsen: “No genus same is available for S. rufiventris.  What we can do is have Daniel, Alvaro, Kevin, or Doug immediately submit a proposal to place this in Dubusia.  Maybe someone should collaborate with Kevin to name a new genus for it in the meantime.”