Sarcoramphus papa (Linnaeus),

Mlíkovský, Jiří, 2015, The type specimens, type localities and nomenclature of Sarcoramphus vultures (Aves: Cathartidae), with a note on their speciation, Zootaxa 3918 (4), pp. 579-586: 580-581

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Sarcoramphus papa (Linnaeus)


Sarcoramphus papa (Linnaeus) 

Linnaeus (1758: 86) called this species Vultur Papa  and described it on the basis of the " Vultur  elegans" of " Edw. av. 2. t. 2 " [= Edwards 1743: pl. 2] and the " Vultur  " of " Alb. av. 2. p. 4. t. 4 " [= Albin 1738: 4, pl. 4].

Albin (1738) did not call his bird " Vultur  " (contra Linnaeus 1758: 86), but "The Warwovwen, or Indian Vulture". He said that he saw this bird "at the George tavern at Charing-Cross " [= Charing Cross, now in London, England, 51.51 °N, 0.13 °W]. He was told by the keepers of the bird that it was "brought by a Dutch ship from Pallampank in the East-Indies ". There are several cities of a similar name in that region, but Albin’s “Pallampank” was almost certainly Palembang, southeastern Sumatra, Indonesia (2.99 °S, 104.76 °E), an important Dutch trading center at the time ( Ricklefs 1981). Albin (1738) did not record a date when he saw or painted this bird, but he did not include this painting in the first volume of his Natural History of Birds ( Albin 1731); it is thus probable that he encountered the bird at Charing Cross during 1731–1738. The bird figured by Albin is undoubtedly a vulture of the genus Sarcoramphus  , which is confined to the Americas. It is thus highly improbable that the bird seen by Albin at Charing Cross would have originated from Indonesia. Albin (1738: 4) mentioned that this vulture was kept at the George tavern together with "the Cassowares ", i.e., at least one cassowary ( Casuarius  sp.; Aves: Casuariidae  ), member of a genus confined to northern Australia and New Guinea. Thus, the keepers of the Charing Cross vulture might have known the origin of their cassowary (or cassowaries), might have believed that the vulture was of the same origin, and accordingly might have misinformed Albin. Alternatively, the vulture indeed could have come with a Dutch ship from Palembang. Vultures are long-lived birds ( Wasser & Sherman 2010) and seamen have been known to take bird pets with them. The Charing Cross vulture thus might have been caught somewhere in the Americas, brought to Palembang and from there soon or much later by the same or by another ship to England. The fate of the bird after Albin saw it at the George tavern is unknown.

Edwards (1743: 2) did not call his bird " Vultur  elegans" (contra Linnaeus 1758: 86), but "The King of the Vultures". He added the name " Vultur  elegans" only later ( Edward 1747: 125). As regards the bird which served as the model for his painting, Edwards (1743: 2) said: "This Bird I drew at Hans Sloane 's, where it lived for some Years." An inscription in Edwards's (1743) plate 2 indicates that he painted the bird in 1739. Hans Sloane (1660–1753) was an Irish-born physician and naturalist, who lived in Chelsea (now part of London, UK) at that time ( De Beer 1953).

Edwards (1743: 2) was told by the keepers of the vulture that the bird came from the East Indies, but he was informed by "Mr. Perry, a great Dealer in foreign Birds and Beasts," that such birds are imported to England only from " America " and he thus suggested that Sloane's bird also had originated from the “West Indies”, i.e., from the Americas. Current knowledge of the distribution of Sarcoramphus  vultures clearly supports Edwards's opinion, but the exact locality where Sloane's bird was caught remains unknown. Berlepsch (1908: 289) restricted the type locality of Vultur papa  to " Surinam " without explanation. Such restrictions were a permitted tool in zoological nomenclature until the Second Edition of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature ( ICZN 1964, Recommendation 72 E), but were annulled by the Fourth Edition of the same Code ( ICZN 1999), which did not recognize this manner of type locality restriction. Berlepsch's (1908) action is thus invalid.

The above review shows that Linnaeus (1758) based his papa  upon two individuals, figured from life by Albin (1738) and Edwards (1743), respectively. Both were kept in captivity in England in the 1730 s, but their geographic origins and their fates are unknown. These two syntypes were believed to belong to a single species until Snyder and Fry (2013) suggested that Albin's specimen belonged to a species different from Vultur papa  . This means that Linnaeus (1758) would have based his Vultur papa  upon a composite type series and that the taxonomic meaning of this nominal species must be fixed by lectotypification (Art. 74 of the Code). To save the name papa  , as published by Linnaeus (1758: 86) in the binomen Vultur papa  , in the currently prevailing meaning, I designate here the specimen figured by Edwards (1743: pl. 2) as the lectotype of Vultur papa Linnaeus, 1758  . Herewith, the specimen figured by Albin (1738: pl. 4) becomes a paralectotype of Vultur papa Linnaeus, 1758  .