Proposal (692) to South American Classification Committee


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



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


Background: Pacheco and Gonzaga (1995) described a new species of Synallaxis from Bahia, Brazil, which they named S. whitneyi.  Six years later, Whitney and Pacheco (2001) argued that whitneyi is a junior synonym of S. cinerea.  Disagreeing with them, Stopiglia & Raposo (2006) claimed that Synallaxis cinerea actually refers to Parulus ruficeps Spix, which should remain a synonym of S. frontalis (see Proposal 223), and that's what we have in our current classification


New information: Bauernfeind et al. (2014) re-examined the case and concluded that cinerea is the correct name for Bahia Spinetail.


Stopiglia & Raposo (2006) concluded that ‘Wied [when proposing Synallaxis cinereus] was merely providing a new name for Parulus ruficeps Spix, 1824, to avoid problems of homonymy.’  As a consequence they suggested the provisions of Art. 72.7 would apply and both the nominal taxa would have the same name-bearing type.  The rationale for this new interpretation was based on their analysis of Wied’s German text, with Wied’s intention.


However, Bauernfeind et al. (2014) considered such express intention in Wied’s text as not convincing.  They interpreted Wied’s original text, contra Stopiglia & Raposo (2006), to indicate that Wied disliked the name because the epithet ruficeps (red-headed) did not truly characterize the taxon – and not for the reason that the species-group name had already been in use within the same genus (which it actually was not).


Finally, Bauernfeind et al. (2014) concluded “If the AMNH syntypes attributable to Synallaxis cinereus Wied include AMNH 6813, in agreement with the interpretations by Allen (1889) and LeCroy & Sloss (2000), then the designation of AMNH 6813 as the lectotype for this taxon (Whitney & Pacheco 2001: 35) is valid. In such circumstances, we respect their judgment in formally considering Synallaxis whitneyi Pacheco & Gonzaga a junior subjective synonym of Synallaxis cinerea Wied.


Despite losing the chance to honor my great friend Bret, I agree and recommend the conclusions of Bauernfeind, Dickinson, and Steinheimer.


Literature Cited:


Allen, J. A. 1 889.  On the Maximilian types of South American birds in the American Museum of Natural History.  Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 2: 77–112.

Bauernfeind, E., E. C. Dickinson, and F. D. Steinheimer.  2014.  Contested spinetail systematics: nomenclature and the Code to the rescue.  Bulletin British Ornithologists´ Club 134: 70–76.

LeCroy, M. and Sloss, R.  2000.  Type specimens of birds in the American Museum of Natural History. Pt. 3. Passeriformes: Eurylaimidae, Dendrocolaptidae, Furnariidae, Formicariidae, Conopophagidae, and Rhinocryptidae.  Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 257: 1–88.

Pacheco, J. F., and Gonzaga, L. P.  1995.  A new species of Synallaxis of the ruficapilla/infuscata complex from eastern Brazil (Passeriformes: Furnariidae).  Ararajuba 3: 3–11.

Stopiglia, R., and Raposo, M. A.  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 Pacheco, J. F.  2001.  Synallaxis whitneyi Pacheco and Gonzaga, 1995 is a synonym of Synallaxis cinereus Wied, 1831.  Nattereria 2: 34–35.


J. F. Pacheco, November 2015





Comments by Areta: “YES. No one better than Bauernfeind and collaborators to enter the realm of intentions and interpretations of German texts. I am persuaded by their reasoning on this complex nomenclatural problem. A separate issue that we should consider soon is the specific status of S. cinerea (as understood by Bauernfeind et al.) and S. ruficapilla.


Comments from Stiles: “YES, the expert opinions, based on detailed analysis of the original descriptions, definitely make this change necessary.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES, for reasons outlined in the proposal.”


Comments from Robbins: “YES. Given that I haven’t actually looked at Wied’s text and would need someone to translate it, I’m relying on Bauernfeind et al.’s interpretation.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES.  Unfortunate, whitneyi has a nicer ring than cinerea.”