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Gonçalo Elias Tuesday 14th July 2020 17:31

Hi guys,

The Mesitornithidae are a family of birds endemic to Madagascar.

In English they are called mesites, in French mésites, in Spanish mesitos.

I would like to know where this name came from and what it means.

Any ideias?

Best regards,

Matt Bell Tuesday 14th July 2020 17:58

According to the Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names, it's from Ancient Greek mesites, meaning 'middle'. The name was applied by Saint-Hilaire, because the species have features that appear to come from several different taxa. So the species are 'middle' species.

James Jobling Tuesday 14th July 2020 18:21

Key MS:
Mesites (syn. Mesitornis † White-breasted Mesite M. variegatus) Gr. μεσιτης mesitēs in a middle position < μεσος mesos middle; "Genre MÉSITE, MESITES. M. Isidore Geoffroy montre que ce genre très remarquable, a surtout de très grands rapports par ses ailes avec les Pénélopes et Parraquas, par son bec et ses narines avec les Héliornes, et par ses pieds avec les Pigeons, spécialement avec les Colombigallines ... M. Isidore Geoffroy a donné à l'espèce type de ce genre remarquable, le nom de MÉSITE VARIÉE, Mesites variegata" (I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 1838).

Gonçalo Elias Tuesday 14th July 2020 23:15

Thanks Matt and James, this is a very unusual way to coin a bird name.

Taphrospilus Wednesday 15th July 2020 05:15


Originally Posted by Gonçalo Elias (Post 4032668)
Thanks Matt and James, this is a very unusual way to coin a bird name.

Maybe not that unusual if you consider e.g. the names Pseudocolaptes boissonneauii medianus or Pteruthius intermedius.

James Jobling Wednesday 15th July 2020 09:40

The specific epithets intermedia, -us, have over 110 entries in the scientific index to HBW Special Volume, 2013, where media, -us, have over 20 entries, and affine, affinis over 80. Note also that in the 19th century many authors, especially the French, created portmanteaux of generic names to indicate resemblance or relationship to two or more different groups. A quick search through my Key MS finds over 100 generic names in this category (not including those of Gregory Mathews, the main culprit in the 20th century). Familiar examples include: Acanthisitta, Ardeotis, Bucorvus, Calendulauda, Carpospiza, Cinnycerthia, Cypsnagra, Embernagra, Euryceros, Fregilupus, Gallicolumba, Gallirallus, Hirundapus, Larosterna, Loxigilla, Muscipipra, Muscisaxicola, Ninox, Pardaliparus, Philepitta, Philesturnus, Picathartes, Plocepasser, Podilymbus, Psaltriparus, Pyrrhuloxia, Surniculus, Sylviparus, Temnotrogon, Tinamotis, Turnagra, Upucerthia, Yungipicus. There was a brief surge amongst extinct Anseriformes, with Anabernicula, Anserobranta, Brantadorna and Cygnanser, and more recent Columbid coinages include Leptotrygon and Zentrygon.

Gonçalo Elias Wednesday 15th July 2020 12:50


Originally Posted by Taphrospilus (Post 4032714)
Maybe not that unusual if you consider e.g. the names Pseudocolaptes boissonneauii medianus or Pteruthius intermedius.

I was referring to the English name and particularly to the generic name (not to the specific one).

When you look and specific names, you find a lot of Greaters, Intermediates and Lessers, but that is not the case with generic names, that was my point ;)

James Jobling Wednesday 15th July 2020 15:11

Back to the fray. The only English substantive names that evoke 'small' and immediately spring to mind are Merlin, Monklet, Murrelet, and Sanderling, whilst Bullfinch signifies a 'hefty' finch. There are many many more generic names signifying great, less and small. For those who like lists, another quick search of the Key MS revealed, amongst others, Macroagelaius, Macroceryle, Macrocorax, Macrodura, Macrorthonyx, Magnamytis, Megabyas, Megacentropus, Megacerchneis, Megaceryle, Megacrex, Megadyptes, Megaegotheles, Megalopteryx, Megalcedo, Megalestris, Meganthus, Megapasser, Megaloperdix, Megapodargus, Megapomatorhinus, Megaquiscalus, Megascops, Megastrix, Megathiza, Megatriorchis, Megaxenops, Megazosterops, Mesocarbo, Mesoenas, Mesomorpha, Mesophoyx, Mesopicos, Mesopteryx, Mesoscolopax, Mesositta, Mezobucco, Micralcyone, Micranous, Micrartamus, Micrastur, Micrathene, Micreophona, Microbainopus, Microcarbo, Microcinnyris, Microcochlearius, Microcursorius, Microdyptes, Microdynamis, Microgoura, Microlarus, Micromacronus, Micronisus, Micronumenius, Micropanyptila, Microparra, Microploceus, Micropodargus, Micropogonius, Microptilotis, Microrhopias, Microserinus, Micrositta, Microspingus, Microtribonyx, Microtrogon, Microxenops, Microzalius, Micruria.

Gonçalo Elias Wednesday 15th July 2020 15:35

Agree, in Latin generic names this situation is more common.

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