Proposal (463) to South American Classification Committee



Recognize newly described Scytalopus petrophilus


Effect on SACC: This would add a new species to the official list.


Background:  A Scytalopus population discovered in the Espinhaço Range of Minas Gerais in 1989 was assigned by Raposo (2006) and Raposo and Kirwan (2008) to S. speluncae.  Genetic data (Mata et al. 2009), however, showed that the Espinhaço Scytalopus is not even the sister to S. speluncae (and Maurício et al. 2010 also demonstrated that this population cannot be assigned to S. speluncae).


New information: Whitney et al. (2010) described the Espinhaço Range Scytalopus as a new species, S. petrophilus.  The type locality is Serra da Piedade, Caeté, Minas Gerais, and the type specimen is at MZUSP, including a tissue sample.  About 20 paratypes were also used in the description.


The abstract from Whitney et al. is as follows:


“ABSTRACT:  We describe a new species of Scytalopus tapaculo from the southern section of the Espinhaço Range and other points in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Scytalopus petrophilus sp. nov., Rock Tapaculo, occupies a variety of habitats between about 900 and 2,100 m elevation, from open, rocky shrub associations (campos rupestres) high in the mountains to taller forest in steepwalled valleys to secondgrowth of semideciduous woodland. Its morphology, vocalizations, and preliminary genetic profile place it solidly within the S. novacapitalis (Brasilia Tapaculo) complex, joining that species, S. pachecoi (Planalto Tapaculo), and the newly described S. diamantinensis(Diamantina  Tapaculo).  S. petrophilus is phenotypically diagnosed from its allospecies by combinations of morphological and vocal characters.


Resumo: Uma nova espécie de Scytalopus do estado de Minas Gerais, Brasil. É descrita uma nova espécie de Scytalopus da porção meridional da Cadeia do Espinhaço e de outros pontos do estado de Minas Gerais, Brasil.  Scytalopus petrophilus sp. nov. (tapaculoserrano) ocupa uma ampla variedade de habitats entre cerca de 900 e 2.100 m de altitude, variando desde áreas abertas nos altos das serras, em formações arbustivas sobre afloramentos rochosos (campos rupestres) a florestas mais altas em vales encaixados e capoeiras de florestas semidecíduas.  Sua morfologia, vocalizações e uma filogenia molecular mostram consistentemente que esta espécie se encaixa no clado formado por S. novacapitalis (tapaculodebrasília), S. pachecoi (tapaculoferreirinho) e S. diamantinensis (tapaculodachapadadiamantina).  Fenotipicamente, S. petrophilus é diagnosticado de suas aloespécies por combinações de caracteres morfológicos e vocais.”


Analysis and Recommendation: Based on plumage characters, Whitney et al. (2010) presented diagnoses of petrophilus (n = 27 skins) from novacapitalis (n = 5), diamantinensis (n =9), and pachecoi (n= 32).  Petrophilus is 100% diagnosable from diamantinensis based on belly color.  It is evidently 100% diagnosable from speluncae by presence of barred flanks.  It is nearly 100% diagnosable (stated as “almost always” in Table 2; this is not defined directly but inferred from the text to be 1 specimen in each case) vs. novacapitalis and pachecoi in terms of various ventral plumage characters.  Thus, there is little doubt that petrophilus is a diagnosable taxon, i.e., at least a subspecies, based on plumage alone.


As is typical for the genus, the primary evidence for species rank is based on voice.  In this case, the vocal data were mostly previously published in Bornschein et al. (2007), who found that petrophilus (analyzed therein as “sp. nov.”) had a diagnostic call, and differs from the other taxa in various features of the “regular” song, the “accelerated” song, and call notes.  However, as discussed at length when we deliberated over species rank for diamantinensis (SACC proposal 329), the vocalizations overlap to a degree among species and are not as dramatic as among many Andean Scytalopus taxa ranked as species.


Because we ranked diamantinensis as a species, I see no logical way to rank petrophilus as anything but a species as well, so I recommend a YES vote on the proposal (which see for additional details).



BORNSCHEIN, M. R., G. N. MAURÍCIO, R. BELMONTE-LOPES, H. MATA, & S. L. BONATTO. 2007. Diamantina Tapaculo, a new Scytalopus endemic to the Chapada Diamantina, northeastern Brazil (Passeriformes: Rhinocryptidae). Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 15: 151-174.

MATA, H., C. S. FONTANA, G. N. MAURÍCIO, M. R. BORNSCHEIN, M. F. DE VASCONCELOS, AND S. L. BONATTO.  2009.  Molecular phylogeny and biogeography of the eastern tapaculos (Aves: Rhinocryptidae: Scytalopus, Eleoscytalopus): cryptic diversification in Brazilian Atlantic Forest.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 53: 450-462.

MAURÍCIO, G. N., M. R. BORNSCHEIN, M. F. VASCONCELOS, B. M. WHITNEY, J. F. PACHECO, AND L. F. SILVEIRA.  2010.  Taxonomy of “Mousecolored Tapaculos”. I. On the application of the name Malacorhynchus speluncae Ménétriès, 1835 (Aves: Passeriformes: Rhinocryptidae).  Zootaxa 2518: 32-48.

RAPOSO, M. A., R. STOPIGLIA, V. LOSKOT, AND G. M. KIRWAN.  2006.  The correct use of the name Scytalopus speluncae (Ménétriès, 1835), and the description of a new species of Brazilian tapaculo (Aves: Passeriformes: Rhinocryptidae).  Zootaxa 1271: 37-56.

RAPOSO, M. A., AND G. M. KIRWAN.  2008.  The Brazilian species complex Scytalopus speluncae: how many times can a holotype be overlooked?  Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 16: 78-81.

WHITNEY, B. M., M. F. VASCONCELOS, L. F. SILVEIRA, AND J. F. PACHECO. 2010.  Scytalopus petrophilus (Rock Tapaculo): a new species from Minas Gerais, Brazil.  Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 18: 73-88.

Van Remsen, August 2010




Comments from Stiles: “YES, to be consistent with the current taxonomy of this group of tapaculos, which collectively would form a superspecies.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES.  Nice to finally put a name to this population, which has been recognized as vocally and morphologically distinct by field ornithologists for more than 20 years.  The controversy over the type specimen of speluncae has muddied the waters tremendously, but I am happy to accept the interpretation of Maurício et al. 2009, and move on.  The resolution of that issue allows the Espinhaço population to be properly named.  Having a fair amount of personal field experience with petrophilus and novacapitalis, and lots of experience with speluncae/notorius, I would say that the morphological and vocal differences between the various taxa are as described by Whitney et al. 2010, and are consistent with criteria used for ranking other Scytalopus populations as species.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES – The data in the paper convince me that a new species is involved, and thanks to Kevin for confirmatory statements based on field experience.”


Comments from Pérez: “YES, to be consistent with current taxonomic criteria used in this group of birds.”