Thursday, September 23, 2021

Reflections on Thinornis rossii

TitleReflections on Thinornis rossii
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsKirwan, GM, Collar, NJ
Type of ArticleFull article
KeywordsThinornis; shore plover; Auckland Islands; Robert McCormick


Thinornis rossii is a charadriiform taxon represented by a single specimen reportedly collected on the Auckland Islands, south of New Zealand, in 1840, and obviously closely related to the shore plover (T. novaeseelandiae), of mainland New Zealand and the Chatham Islands. Since the early 20th century, the name T. rossii has commonly been treated as a synonym of T. novaeseelandiae owing to doubts over its provenance based on an untraced quotation from the naturalist (Robert McCormick) who was presumed to have collected it. However, there seems to be no other evidence that the specimen might originate from somewhere close to modern-day Auckland, in the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island, rather than the Auckland Islands, despite the fact that the relevant collecting expedition visited both areas. Moreover, the untraced quotation questioning the Auckland Islands origin seems very possibly to be an artefact of a misremembered reading of McCormick’s unpublished diary or his memoirs, and the circumstantial published and unpublished evidence points with reasonable strength to the bird having been collected where originally stated. Morphological characters (darker, browner upperparts, brownish-grey flanks, longer central toe) suggest that T. rossii might be a valid (but extinct) taxon most appropriately ranked at subspecific level, but the possibility remains that it represents a melanistic specimen. Ideally, the type should be subject to a counterpart molecular investigation.


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