Name change proposed for bird endemic to Puerto Rico

In “Discuten un cambio de nombre para el san pedrito,” Adolfo Rodríguez Velázquez (El Nuevo Día) writes about a local proposal to use the nomenclature Todus borinquensis, instead of Todus mexicanus, while claiming its designation as a national bird. Here are excerpts:

Ornithologists, members of non-profit entities and agencies, educators, and tourist guides shuffle strategies to correct the scientific name of the San Pedrito bird, Todus mexicanus, while calls increase for Governor Pedro Pierluisi to sign into law a project that seeks to designate this charismatic animal in the national bird.

On Wednesday, in a round table, more than 30 participants stated that the scientific name, Todus mexicanus, because it refers to Mexico, creates confusion and represents a problem for the conservation of the species and might even put its designation as a national bird at stake, despite being endemic to Puerto Rico.

In the past, the proposal was to correct it as Todus portoricensis, but this name was already used in historical records to designate a different bird. As an alternative, the name that is now suggested is Todus borinquensis.

The decision on the modification rests in the hands of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). This organization is responsible for maintaining consensus on the Latinized names assigned to animals, once they are discovered and described by researchers.

Among the approaches discussed at the round table was that the ICZN understands that, as it is a matter related to geographical positions, it is not possible to make a correction. But, according to José González Díaz, a member of the Puerto Rican Ornithological Society, Inc. (SOPI) and a leader in the movement to change the nomenclature of the San Pedrito, this approach is not applicable because it is an error resulting from historical confusion.

González Díaz and his wife, Felisa Collazo, are the authors of the book “La raíz de las Antillas, la historia de la familia Todidae” [The Antilles Root: The History of the Todidae Family] dedicated to San Pedrito and where they collect information—two centuries old—with evidence that explains the error. “It is an offense for a country that has a unique, endemic bird species and that today continues to be designated with an incorrect name,” said González Díaz.

This controversy dates back to 1838, when French naturalist René Lesson named the San Pedrito as Todus mexicanus, upon receiving erroneous information about the place of collection of the specimens used to describe the bird. Similarly, Lesson named the species belonging to Cuba as Todus portoricensis. The latter case was luckier than the Puerto Rican situation because, in 1837, English scientist John Gould had already designated it as Todus multicolor. Consequently, Todus portoricensis became a synonym of the Cuban bird and cannot be attributed to the San Pedrito.

At the round table, various options were discussed for proceeding with a formal request to the ICZN to change the name, including signatures from Puerto Rican citizens, letters from scientists, and endorsements from various entities, among other ideas. Currently, the movement has the support of several local and international ornithological organizations. [. . .]

“We have all the evidence of where this error occurred, we have support from our members who suggest this change and, at this meeting, we are taking time to discuss how to sign a resolution between the leadership of BirdsCaribbean and the American Ornithological Society to support this case,” said Adrianne Tossas, president of BirdsCaribbean. [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in Spanish), see https://www.elnuevodia.com/ciencia-ambiente/flora-fauna/notas/discuten-un-cambio-de-nombre-para-el-san-pedrito/

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