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PARVORDER GACK



(No, Gack has not become a parvorder)

> A question for all you systematics gurus out there.  I'm going through
> Sibley and Monroe's Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World.
> How does a Parvorder compare in rank with a Suborder in the Linnean
> hierarchy?

I thought (don't forget all this is based on the principle of taxonomic
symmetry) that a parvorder was a constituent of a suborder (or infraorder)
containing everything smaller than a superfamily. Sibley et al's taxonomy is
violently complex, so a better example would be amongst mammalian carnivorans,
where Parvorder Ursida, which some authors have erected to contain superfamilies
Ursoidea and Otaroidea (fur-seals etc), is part of suborder Aeluroidea (of
course, the fact that carnivoran taxonomists and cladists use several terms
interchangeably for several of these higher-rank taxa doesn't really help) - the
dog-branch carnivorans (elsewhere called Caniformes). Go on, correct me..  

I dread to think how nanorders, megaorders, hyperfamilies and other such silly
terms would be explained.

DODOES AND SOLITAIRES

Jim asked about dodo remains. I can't help, but there's much recent literature
on the more accurate assessments of dodo morphology - mainly due to the
restorational work carried out by Andrew Kitchener for the Museum of Scotland.
For those of you that don't know, dodoes turn out to be rather svelte, turkey-
weight (around 13 kg) birds with proportionally long legs. Early accounts tell
how they were fast runners, though it now seems like they had a 'fat' season.
The birds that were kept in European zoos, however, were not fed on a 'natural'
diet, and got grossly overweight, hence the popular depictions. Ironically, that
dodoes could alone survive the journey from Mauritius to Europe shows that they
were hardy animals, and could have prospered in captivity here!

Much systematic argument continues over dodoes and solitaires (raphids). The
Victorian white dodo (_Victorina imperialis_?) is an animal known only from oil
paintings, and whether it ever existed as anything other than a figment of
certain artist's imaginations remains to be established! Likewise, a white
solitaire was rumoured too. Finally, one solitaire species was recently shown
to have been a giant flightless ibis (bigger than the Hawaiian ones). Neat! 

"You know I said I'd kill you last?...  I lied"

DARREN NAISH