Proposal (533) to South American Classification Committee


Recognize Selenidera piperivora as the valid combination for the Guianan Toucanet



Effect on SACC list: The Guianan Toucanet, currently named Selenidera culik in the SACC list, would be called Selenidera piperivora.


Background: Pacheco & Whitney (2006) suggested that the name Ramphastos piperivorus Linnaeus, 1766, had priority over Pteroglossus Culik Wagler, 1827 [= Selenidera culik (Wagler, 1827)] for the Guianan Toucanet. This proposal was challenged by Walters (2007), who drew attention to the paper by Peters (1930) to which Pacheco & Whitney had made no reference.


New data: A recent paper by Piacentini et al. (2010) presented arguments for the use of Selenidera piperivora (Linnaeus 1758) as the correct name for the species treated in most recent literature as S. culik (Wagler 1827).


The main arguments gathered by Piacentini and colleagues, according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN 1999), were:


-- Ramphastos piperivorus Linnaeus, 1758, satisfies all the criteria of availability and therefore is an available name (contra Peters 1930).


-- Ramphastos piperivorus Linnaeus, 1766, is not a homonym of the apparently indeterminate Ramphastos piperivorus Linnaeus, 1758, as advocated by Peters (1930).


-- Ramphastos piperivorus Linnaeus, 1758, is an available name, and the taxon it denotes is precisely identifiable with Guianan Toucanet based on an unambiguous combination of external references.


Recommendation: As co-authors of the most recent paper dealing with this nomenclatural case, we recommend a YES vote to recognize Selenidera piperivora (Linnaeus 1758) as the valid name of the Guianan Toucanet.


Literature cited:

International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).  1999.  International code of zoological nomenclature. Fourth edn. London: The International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature.

Pacheco, J.F. & B.M. Whitney.  2006.  Mandatory changes to the scientific names of three Neotropical birds.  Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 126 (3): 242-244. 

Peters, J.L.  1930.  The identity of the toucans described by Linnaeus in the 10th. and 12th. editions of the Systema Naturae. Auk 47: 405-408.

Piacentini, V.Q., J.F. Pacheco & B. M. Whitney.  2010.  The name Ramphastos piperivorus Linnaeus revisited.  Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 130 (2): 141-143.

Walters, M.  2007.  The correct name of the Guianan Toucanet: Selenidera culik (Wagler) not S. piperivorus (Linnaeus).  Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 127 (3): 247-248.


J. F. Pacheco & Vitor de Q. Piacentini, June 2012




Comments solicited from Edward Dickinson: "The proposal to replace the name Selenidera culik (Wagler 1827) by Selenidera piperivorus (Linnaeus 1766) was queried by Walters (2007), who drew attention to the paper by Peters (1930) to which Pacheco & Whitney had made no reference.  Since then Piacentini et al. (2010) have provided sufficient evidence to return the views of Peters (1930), and I believe that it would now be appropriate to conclude this matter by agreeing to their conclusions and accepting the name Selenidera piperivorus (Linnaeus 1758)."


Comments from Stiles: “YES, especially in view of Edward’s comments.”


Comments from Pérez-Emán: “YES, based on data included in the proposal and Dickinson’s support.”


Comments from Nores: “NO.  I agree with Hellmayr, Peters and Walters that the description 'R[amphastos] rostro nigro: carina crassissima', cannot be identified as any known toucan and consequently, the name piperivorus is not valid (note that I do not say “Nomen nudum”). Although Linnaeus in 1766 gave a longer description of his R. piperivorus that allows to identify this species, that does not change the question because he added information of an invalid name.


“Suppose three situations:

1. That Linnaeus didn't release the description of 1766.

2. That Linnaeus used a new name in 1766.

3. That other author described correctly the same species between the two publications of Linnaeus.


“In the first case, I think that any author could claim that piperivorus has priority over culik, because it is evident that Ramphastos piperivorus Linnaeus 1758 is not a valid name.


“In the second case, the name used in 1766 would be the valid because piperivorus would be invalid.


“In the third case, the name used by the other author would be valid, because piperivorus would be invalid.”


Response from Vitor Piacentini: “First, I thank Dr. Nores interest on the case. I must note, though, that his comments cannot be taken into account because they lack foundation on the ICZN. Next, we need to have clear what are the difference between an available name and a valid name:


Available name: any name, including synonyms, that conforms to the ICZN and thus may be potentially applied to a taxon;

Valid name: the “correct” name (among the available ones) to call a taxon based on the rules of the ICZN.


“With that on mind, I repeat what we wrote on the paper:


1)  According to the Code, the name piperivorus Linnaeus, 1758, is an available name.

2)  Based on the available external evidence, it applies to the Guianan Toucanet. Again repeating our paper, this procedure (the use of external evidence) is in accordance with the ICZN and was indeed used by Peters to apply the name Ramphastos tucanus (and nobody questions that!)

3) Being available and applying to the Guiana Toucanet, the name piperivorus becomes the valid name of that species because it is the oldest one (Principle of Priority) and a reversal of precedence is not possible in this case.


“I don’t think his three suppositions need further comments, as they are precisely the opposite of the real facts and they do not help understanding the real facts. If someone proved that our approach (the three items above) is wrong according to the ICZN, I would be happy to abandon the names piperivorus and tucanus. However, of course I do believe the application of both names is very straightforward based on the ICZN – that’s why I wrote the paper with Pacheco and Whitney.”