Jan
16

A “New” Iiwi?

By

Screenshot 2017-12-27 14.47.59

On February 24, 1911, Outram Bangs at the MCZ named a new subspecies of the iiwi, differing from the “true” iiwi of the island of Hawaii in its stronger bill and orange rather than scarlet tones to its plumage. Though Bangs claimed that specimens of his new suavis (“smooth”) “could be picked out easily” in the museum tray, most recent authorities consider the iiwi monotypic.

But that doesn’t mean that we should ignore Bangs’s publication of suavis, which delivers one of the smoothest (!) museum insults ever:

While this particular difference in the shade of vermilion is very striking in the symmetrical, smooth skins of even and regular make, which I have just compared, I must confess that it probably would not be in rough skins such as some European ornithologists appear still content with.

In other, not much more brutal words, if curators in the Old World issued proper instructions to their preparators, they, too, would be able to see the differences their American colleagues could discern.

So there.

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