Proposal (725) to South American Classification Committee


Change the spelling of Porphyrio martinicus to Porphyrio martinica



The SACC footnote for the Purple Gallinule, currently Porphyrio martinicus, summarizes the situation:


“Sibley & Monroe (1990) considered the species epithet to be an adjective and this changed its ending (from martinica to martinicus) to agree in gender with Porphyrio.  David & Gosselin (2011) concluded that the correct name is indeed martinicus.  Schodde & Bock (2016), however, provided evidence that the species epithet is a noun in apposition and should revert to its original formulation, i.e. martinica.”


The relevant text from Schodde & Bock (2016) is as follows:


“The epithet martinica


“David & Gosselin (2011) argued for treating martinica, the geographical name used by Linnaeus (1766: 259, 283, 325) and Hermann (1783: 229) for taxa from the French island of Martinique, as adjectival, without considering options or invoking Article 31.2.2.  Yet Linnaeus ( also consistently quoted “Martinica” as the habitat for these species, opening their names to interpretation as geographical nouns in apposition.  Latin place names usually end with the suffix -ia (see bresilia above), but many also end in -a after a consonant, e.g. Creta (Crete), Corsica (Corsica) and Palaestina (Israel, Palestine), as in martinica.  Moreover, the conventional adjectival form of names based on Martinique is martinicana, as in Coereba flaveola martinicana (Reichenbach, 1853) or martinicensis, as in Troglodytes aedon martinicensis (Sclater, 1866). Neither Linnaeus’ nor Hermann’s usages of martinica were capitalized which, were they substantival, might have been expected from their authors’ practice of cap[i]talizing nouns. This clue is questionable, nevertheless, because both Linnaeus and Hermann capitalized nouns for place names inconsistently, as pointed out by David & Gosselin (2000, 2011: 110) and above for Linnaeus.


“In the Aves, martinica is currently in use for four species (Dickinson & Remsen 2013; Dickinson & Christidis 2014): Geotrygon montana martinica (Linnaeus, 1766), Porphyrio martinicus (Linnaeus, 1766), Chaetura martinica (Hermann, 1783), and Elaenia martinica (Linnaeus, 1766).  All four usages were originally published as martinica in combination with feminine genera, without any other inference about their grammatical status.  Thus their identity as adjectives or nouns is ambiguous and open to interpretation as either. In a scan of other animal classes in Linnaeus (l.c.) and Hermann (l.c.), we found no other gender endings for martinica that could be construed as unambiguously adjectival, pace David & Gosselin (2011). Usage as noun or adjective being indecisive for the above four names, martinica becomes a noun in apposition under Article 31.2.2 of the Code, to be kept in its original form unless and until explicitly demonstrated as adjectival. In the interim, Porphyrio martinicus (Linnaeus, 1766) should revert to P. martinica, a form widely familiar in classifications prior to David & Gosselin (l.c.).”


I have nothing to add to the Schodde & Bock (2016) analysis, which sounds convincing, and therefore I propose that SACC revert the species epithet to its original formulation: martinica.


J. C. Fernández-Ordóñez, October 2016




Comments from Stiles: “YES. The virtually universal use of martinica until the recent "martinicus" was proposed based upon decidedly controversial evidence makes the proposal to revert to martinica the best way to promote stability.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES for reasons given in the Proposal, which, as Gary points out, is also best for nomenclatural stability, and is consistent with usage in three other avian taxa.”


Comments solicited from Murray Bruce: The latter day invocation of martinicus for Porphyrio, as proposed by David & Gosselin, is undone in the Howard & Moore 4th ed. by only applying the ‘correction’ to one taxon instead of to all applications of martinica, thus creating an anomaly rather than a nomenclatural correction.  More reason to stick with martinica.  I can see both sides of this argument and normally I would agree with what Normand David concludes, but I think there are clear grounds supporting the counterargument to justify martinica, and thus keeping with the old traditions of the 18th Century in this example.”


Comments from Areta: “YES. Seems an inescapable conclusion when following The Code.”