• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community, dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    You are most welcome to register for an account, which allows you to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Great Maui crake Porzana severnsi (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
According the The Eponym Dictionary of Birds Porzana severnsi is dedicated to:

R. Michael Severns (DNF) knew most of the important fossil locations on Maui, , Hawaiian Islands, and willingly shared this with the crake's describers, Storrs Olson (q.v.) and Helen James.

If we look at Prodromus of the Fossil Avifauna of the Hawaiian Islands p. 13:

Robert Michael Severns recently found on East Maui two lava tubes that contain abundant remains of extinct birds. We have examined a sample of specimens from one of these tubes, and it documents the former presence on Maui of Branta cf. sandvicensis, a new species of Thambetochen different from either T. chauliodous or the Oahu species, and what is possibly a third species of goose. Further collecting at these sites will doubtless render obsolete much of what we have said about Maui in the present paper.

Take it for what's worth. It could be that this Mike Severns owns a diving school in Kihei, Hawaii.

Fred Ruhe

Well-known member
For the original description (with the etymology) see:
Storrs Lovejoy Olson & Helen F. James, 1991
Descriptions of Thirty-Two New Species of Birds From the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-Passeriformes.
Ornithological Monographs No. 45: 1-88
The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington D.C.
Free pdf: https://repository.si.edu/handle/10088/1745 (go to view/open)

Last edited:

Björn Bergenholtz

... also known as "Calalp"
Just for the fun of it, I also had a go at ...

severnsi as in:
• the extinct, sub-fossil Large Maui Rail, alt. ditto Crake (Porzana) Zapornia severnsi OLSON & JAMES 1991* (OD in Fred's post #2), a k a Severns's Crake.
= the US amateur researcher 'Mike' Severns (fl.2020), primarily a Malacologist (dealing with Molluscs, also incl. fossil ones) whose full name (just like Martin pointed out) seems to be; Robert Michael Severns, who also (at least earlier) would/could be titled; professional Diver (for decades).

This guy, Michael 'Mike' Severns is, for example; the Author of the major (Malacological) book/work; Shells of the Hawaiian Islands – The Sea Shells (The Verifiable Species and Their Described Variants). ConchBook, Hackemhein, Germany (2011), in two hefty volumes (here), and as such he's (of course) a long time Member of the local Hawaiian Malacological Society.

He (and his wife Pauline Fiene, a k a Fiene-Severns) was equally acknowledged in several Papers dealing with fossil or sub-fossil taxa (in various Orders), for example, the Paper; Identification of the Extinct Hawaiian Eagle (Haliaeetus) by mtDNA Sequence Analysis, by Robert C. Fleischer, Storrs L. Olson, Helen F. James and Alan C. Cooper (2000, here), as well as in; The osteology and phylogeny of the Hawaiian finch radiation (Fringillidae: Drepanidini), including extinct taxa, by Helen F. James (2004, here).

The very same guy, R. (Robert) Michael 'Mike' Severns, is also [even if very Non-bird] commemorated in an extinct, large Crab Geograpsus severnsi PAULAY & STARMER 2011 (here):
Named for Mike Severns, who discovered the Pu'u Naio Cave on Maui, where most of the material came from; for his long-standing interest in and collections of this species.

He has also, together with Roland Houart, fairly recently (2013) published; Description of a new species of Favartia (Pygmaepterys) (Gastropoda: Muricidae: Muricopsinae) from Hawaii (here).

... It could be that this Mike Severns owns a diving school in Kihei, Hawaii.

It could very well be that he himself (still) owns, or co-owns, the Mike Severns Diving in some way, or not [though it looks more like a Tour company (less like a diving school), at Kihei, on the Island Maui, Hawaii], this I simply don't know, although, it seems like he's a co-owner (as of here), but I think he no longer operates it (probably retired?), nowadays this popular Dive firm seems to be run by his wife Pauline [who, by the way, also is commemorated in scientific names, of some taxa, like the Sea slugs; Hallaxa paulinae, and Hypselodoris paulinae (both described by Gosliner & Johnson, in 1994 resp. 1999)].

If even more curious on either one of them, they are fairly easy to contact; here, or here, alt. here.

A longer piece (and a good read) about the 'Mollusk Man' himself, with some nice Photos of the guy in question (a clearly dedicated and apparently a headstrong man), was published in Hana Hou! (the Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines), in April/May 2015 (here). In this text he's mentioned (though only in passing) as " ... a professional scuba diver who, at 64, estimates ...", (which would make him born in the early 1950's, in about 1951), a phrase that is slightly contradicted by the sentence; "As a teenager in the early 1960s" ... ? I guess it all depends on when the interview itself was done?

However, a more noteworthy part (confirming it's him all right) is the following phrases (my blue):
Six species have been named in his honor. Two (Vexillum severnsi and Fusinus severnsi) are seashells. The others are an extinct Hawaiian bird (Porzana severnsi), an extinct Hawaiian land crab (Geograpsus severnsi), an Indonesian fish (Pseudojuloides severnsi) and a South Pacific pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus severnsi).

Mike Severns himself, seems to be still going strong (at least earlier this year) as he posted a memory of/after the renowned ichtyologist John Ernest “Jack” Randall, Jr. (1924–2020), one of the World's a leading Authorities on Coral reef fishes, just a few days after Randall's passing, in late April this year (here).



*Note that English (and Swedish) Wikipedia (for whatever odd reason), has
the wrong Authorship and ditto year, for this species, claiming; "Olson 1973".
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread