Proposal (705) to South American Classification Committee


Correct the scientific names of (A) Leptotila cassini and (B) Amazilia saucerrottei based on evidence in the original descriptions


Note: This proposal was first submitted to NACC, which passed it unanimously


Background:  SACC currently lists the names of these species as Amazilia saucerrottei and Leptotila cassini.


“New” Information: (a) Leptotila cassini was described by Lawrence in 1867 in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.  The name was published as Leptotila cassinii, and was cited as such by Hellmayr and Conover (1942), but Ridgway (1916), and Peters (1937) cited it as cassini, and Sibley and Monroe (1990) flatly stated that “The correct original spelling is cassini, not cassinii.”  As can be seen from the beginning of Lawrence’s description, however:




the correct original spelling is indeed cassinii, contra Ridgway, Peters, and Sibley and Monroe.  Our spelling must be corrected accordingly, as has already been done by Dickinson and Remsen (2013) in the new Howard and Moore non-passerine volume.


(b) Amazilia saucerrottei was described by Delattre and Bourcier in 1846 in the Revue Zoologique (Paris) as Trochilus Saucerrottei.  The species was named for Nicolas Saucerotte, a medical doctor and “ornithologiste distingué” from Lunéville, France.  Saucerotte’s name is spelled correctly (with a single “r”) in the text of the description, but incorrectly (with a double “r”) in the name of the species, as shown below:



According to Article 32.5.1 of the Code of Zoological Nomenclature, which covers spellings that must be corrected (incorrect original spellings), “If there is in the original publication itself, without recourse to any external source of information, clear evidence of an inadvertent error, such as a lapsus calami or a copyist’s or printer’s error, it must be corrected.”  The example provided in the code concerns an author stating that a new species was being named for Linnaeus but publishing the name as ninnaei, which would be an incorrect original spelling to be corrected to linnaei.  The case of saucerrottei is comparable, and this name, an obvious misspelling of Saucerotte, must be corrected to saucerottei, as has already been done by Dickinson and Remsen (2013).


Recommendation:  I recommend a YES vote in favor of these corrections:


A. Change Leptotila cassini to Leptotila cassinii

B. Change Amazilia saucerrottei to Amazilia saucerottei


Lit Cited:

Dickinson, E. C., and J. V. Remsen, Jr. (eds.). 2013. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1. Non-passerines. Aves Press, Eastbourne, U.K.

Hellmayr, C. E., and B. Conover. 1942. Catalogue of Birds of the Americas and the Adjacent Islands. Zool. Ser., Field Museum of Nat. Hist., Vol. XIII, Part 1, Number 1.

Peters, J. L. 1937. Checklist of Birds of the World, Vol. 3. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Ridgway, R. 1916. Birds of North and Middle America. Bull. U.S. Natl. Mus. 50, Part 7.

Sibley, C. G., and B. L. Monroe, Jr. 1990. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.


Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Peter Kovalik for making a list of discrepancies between the new Howard and Moore and other checklists and to Tom Schulenberg for bringing the discrepancies to our attention.


Terry Chesser, February 2015




Comments from Claramunt:

“A. NO. cassini might be regarded as an emendation (33.3) but article 33.4, which deals specifically with -i and -ii endings, clearly states that we should regard cassini as an “incorrect subsequent spelling.”  In general, incorrect subsequent spellings should not be used but Article 33.3.1. states that “when an incorrect subsequent spelling is in prevailing usage and is attributed to the publication of the original spelling, the subsequent spelling and attribution are to be preserved and the spelling is deemed to be a correct original spelling.”


“The next question is whether cassini is in prevailing usage. The definition of prevailing usage is (from the Code’s glossary): “that usage of the name which is adopted by at least a substantial majority of the most recent authors concerned with the relevant taxon, irrespective of how long ago their work was published.


“Note that there is a more restrictive definition of “prevailing usage” in article 23.9.1, but it applies to synonyms and homonyms, not to subsequent spellings. Subsequent spellings are not synonyms.


“Therefore, because cassini has been in prevailing usage during the last century, I don’t see a reason to upset stability unnecessarily by reverting to the clumsier cassinii.”


B. “YES. Delattre and Bourcier (1846) dedicated the species to “M. Saucerotte”; therefore, the original publication itself indicates that saucerrottei was a typographical error, an “incorrect original spelling” that must be corrected (Art. 32.5.1). saucerottei is a "justified emendation" (Art. 33.2.2).”


Comments from Areta:

“A. YES. I am not convinced by the prevailing usage argument in this case. As I have discussed in Proposal 719, prevailing usage might change easily and in this case might in part stem from the wrong assertion by Sibley & Monroe (1990). I do not see any good reason to perpetuate a mismatch between the original spelling and subsequent spellings. The difference is minor, and it should not result in any drastic problem. In this case an authoritative and widely cited source (Hellmayr & Conover 1942) used the correct original spelling, and recently Dickinson & Remsen (2013) used the original spelling again. A Google search of Leptotila cassinii returns 15300 hits, while Leptotila cassini returns 8200 hits (16 may 2016). Importantly, all major sources (HBW on-line [but not the IBC site], xeno-canto, Neotropical Birds Online, BirdLife, etc.) refer to this dove as cassinii. I have not checked specific papers using the name of this dove. Given that both names have been used widely, I am in favor of using the name in the original description by Lawrence.


“B. YES. It is clearly an original incorrect spelling and must be corrected.”


Comments from Pacheco: “YES to both. Because prevailing usage of 'cassinii' (as raised by Areta) favors the original spelling (also an appropriate latinization). The spelling 'saucerottei' is the obvious "justified emendation."


Comments from Jaramillo: “A. YES. B. YES. Nothing controversial here -- these look like good corrections to me.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES, especially as these corrections are already in use.”


Comments from Piacentini: “Santiago's rationale is an important one; nonetheless I cannot see that cassini is in prevailing usage. The definition given in the Glossary states that a "substantial majority of the most recent authors" must use an ISS to afford it a prevailing usage. The first problem is to define "most recent authors". Is it the last 100 years? The last 50, or perhaps 20? If we restrict to the last 20, most of the important referential sources seem to be using the original spelling: HBW online, Xeno-canto/IOC, H&M, Clements/eBird/Neotropical Birds Online, while only SACC and the printed HBW use cassini. If we do not apply any temporal filter, we should go through many more sources. My impression is that the spelling "cassini" then may supersede "cassinii", but not by a "substantial majority". I got slightly different numbers from Nacho when searching on Google (but I've put the name with quotation marks): 3100 cassini vs. 2900 cassinii [19.x.2016], so we have a percentage of about 52% vs. 48%. A more relevant search, though, should be Google Scholar: 85 cassini vs. 80 cassinii -- again 51.5% vs. 48.5%. But the most surprising numbers came from BHL: 7 uses of cassini vs. 16 of cassinii [counting only when used as valid by different publications; otherwise the numbers given were 8 vs. 37: !]. That definitely buries the argument for prevailing usage of the ISS, in my opinion. With all that in mind, I strongly support the use of the original cassinii for the species.”


Additional comments from Claramunt: “On second thought, I think Nacho and Vitor are right in that there is no clear "prevailing usage" of cassini versus cassinii. I should change my vote.”


Comments solicited from Murray Bruce: “ “YES. The –ii vs. –i issue has affected a number of eponyms and such ‘corrections’ in more recent works usually just demonstrate that efforts were made to check the original sources. Why the difference anyway? It was originally about Latinizing names within Latin diagnoses before creating eponyms but for some, such as Lawrence, this formality could be skipped by just giving an English description but use –ii anyway, with the Latin diagnosis surviving only in the –ii, but in these cases, it invariably connects to authors from the time when Latin diagnoses for birds were still often provided. While these continue for plants, in birds this formality seems to have ended with the 19th Century.  For example, Charles Hose has a Dicaeum hosii (from Sharpe in 1892) because it has a Latin diagnosis, whereas for English diagnoses only he is commemorated elsewhere as hosei.  The difference is more obvious with vowel ending names, except, of course, those names ending in –i, but just as prevalent with ones like cassinii in those days, who, in a Latin diagnosis, was Cassinius and thus the possessive –i is added to the additional –i from the Latin declension of the name within the descriptive framework.  Apologies if I’m being superfluous in discussing this aspect, but it seems relevant because while I see where Claramunt is going with his points about emendations and prevailing usage, the Code has at least tried to recognise that –ii vs. –i is a special case for reasons noted above by highlighting them in a separate article, 33.4, despite the contradictory example of 33.3.1 (brucii vs. brucei) seeming to belong better with 33.4 rather than demonstrate a typical example of an ISS. This inconsistency can seem to undermine the issue, but in all such cases, we should try to follow the original proposed spelling, easily settled by verifying the original source.  This is despite such statements as by Sibley & Ahlquist, who no doubt trusted Peters and Ridgway to be right because they usually were (or did they have a bias for a single ‘i’? I have not looked further into this point at this time). In the case here, both the –ii and –i spellings are in use, as could be demonstrated for a number of other species-group eponyms, making the choice of following the original spelling the logical solution.   As for saucerrottei/saucerottei, a good example of the relevant Code rule with the name offered for dedication clearly provided and easily solved by checking the original source.  With so much of the old literature now digitised, one can hope such cases as these can more easily be settled.”