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The forgotten authorship of Sylvia melanocephala ("Gmelin") -- and a few other names (1 Viewer)


laurent raty
The forgotten authorship of Sylvia melanocephala ("Gmelin") -- and a few other names

In 1774-77, Francesco Cetti published a 3-volume work in Italian, titled Storia naturale di Sardegna. The first volume covered mammals; the second one, birds; the third one, amphibians (incl. reptiles) and fishes. The 3 volumes can be seen at:
  1. https://books.google.com/books?id=eYtmuT-Gmq0C
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=bhAAAAAAQAAJ
  3. https://books.google.com/books?id=ADTWeaXL5zcC
In 1783-84, a German edition of this work was published under the title Naturgeschichte von Sardinien. The text was translated (and annotated) by David Piesch; the editor was Nathanael Gottfried Leske. Just like the original Italian edition, there were 3 volumes:
  1. https://books.google.com/books?id=ewfEHIX4q8IC
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=yKdZByEkE90C
  3. https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC

Cetti did not use scientific names in his text. At the end of the German version, however, the German editor and translator added [an Appendix] with a perfectly binominal list of the animals of Sardinia, which they had derived from Cetti's writings. In this list, they also introduced 9 new species names (4 birds, 2 lizards, 1 snake, 2 fishes), for forms which they thought undescribed, with diagnoses and references to the passages of Cetti's work where they appeared.

The Appendix was titled:
Appendix sistens catalogum animalium Sardiniae, mammalium, auium, amphibiorum, piscinum; ex Francisci Cetti fauna sardica depromtus, et iuxta normam Linnaei in System. nat. edit. 12. digestus.
(Appendix establishing a catalogue of the animals of Sardinia, mammals, birds, amphibians, fishes; built from Francesco Cetti's Sardinian fauna, and organized according to the standard of Linnaeus in System. nat. edit. 12.)

The new names were marked:
Asteriscis novas species Auctoris designauimus.
(We have marked the author's new species with asterisks.)

Eight of these names were adopted by subsequent workers, who cited them along with diagnoses that were clearly derived from those of the German edition (even if sometimes completed with information taken from the work itself) and gave "Cetti" as their source, adding, in most cases, a page number and the Italian title of the volume where the species was covered. (Of course, the names themselves did not appear in the Italian original version, which made these references quite misleading. It may be noteworthy that, in a number of cases, despite the Italian title, the cited page number corresponded to where the species appeared in the German version.) Five of these names are still in wide use nowadays (1 bird, 2 lizards, 2 fishes). With time, the actual source of these names was apparently lost and these five names are all universally (or nearly so) mis-attributed to later authors.

The bird names, however, all have two cards in the Richmond Index, one citing Gmelin 1788/89, the other giving the correct original source. (Richmond attributed the names in the German edition of Cetti's work to Piesch & Leske.)

The names are:


Strix zonca Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:8 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA224
43. STRIX.
* Zonca. 41. L. capite auriculato pennis 8-9.
Ucc. 60. -- G. 58.
Habitat in Italia, Sardinia.
Rostrum luteo-viridescens. Solitaria vivit, e Sardinia non migrat.
vs. Strix zorca Gmelin 1788:289 - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2896889
43. STRIX.
Zorca. 21. St. auricularum pennis 8-9. Cetti ucc. di Sardegn. p. 60.
Habitat in Italia, Sardinia, solitaria, non migrans, 7 pollices longa, ululans.
Rostrum ex viridescente flavo, digiti nudi.
(Note the corrupted spelling of Gmelin's version; "zonca" is a local Sardinian name for Scops Owl, see https://books.google.com/books?id=bhAAAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA60 (Italian), or https://books.google.com/books?id=yKdZByEkE90C&pg=PA59 (German).)


Mergus imperialis Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:11 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA227
* Imperialis. 67. M. capite laevi -- --
Uccelli 314. -- G. 326.
Corpus nigro-fusco-griseoque varium; rostrum et pedes albi paullum rufescentes. Remiges primores nigrae, sine speculo.
vs. Mergus imperialis Gmelin 1789:547 - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2656040
Imperialis. 4. M. ex nigro, fusco et griseo varius, capite laevi, remigibus primoribus nigris, specullo nullo, rostro pedibusque ex rufescente albis. Cetti ucc. di Sard, p. 326.
Habitat in Sardinia, anseris magnitudine et forma.
Lingua ciliata.


Motacilla melanocephala Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:18 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA234
* melanocephala. 137. M. oculorum fascia rubra.
Vcc. 218. -- G. 218.
Atricapillae similima, minor tamen.
vs. Motacilla melanocephala Gmelin 1789:970 - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2656465
melanocephala. 104. M. ex virescente cinerea, subtus grisea, vertice nigro, oculorum fascia rubra. Cetti ucc. di Sard. p. 215.
Habitat in Sardinia, atricapillae multum affinis, nonne varietas? minor tamen et vix canora.
This name is in use as Sylvia melanocephala (Gmelin 1789), despite it dates from Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784.


Motacilla Moschita Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:18 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA234
* Moschita. 138. M. plumbea, pileo rufescente.
Vcc. 218 -- G. 215.
vs. Motacilla Moschita Gmelin 1789:970 - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2656465
Moschita, 104. M. plumbea, pileo rufescente. Cetti ucc. di Sard. p. 215.
Habitat in Sardinia, cuculi ovis, nido suo ingestis, saepius incubant.


Lacerta tiliguerta Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:21 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA237
*Tiliguerta. 157. L. cauda verticillata corpore duplo longiore, squamis abdominalis 80.
Anfibi 15. -- G. 16.
Habitat in Sardinis.
Longitudo 1 1/2 poll. quorum 5 ad cauda pertinent, mas viridis, maculis nigris; femina fusca. Femora postica subtus linea e punctis callosis notata, ut in Lac. Ameiva et agili, intra quas referenda Tiliguerta.
vs. Lacerta Tiliguerta Gmelin 1789:1070 - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2656566
Tiliguerta. 62. L. cauda verticillata corpore duplo longiore, scutis abdominis 80. Cetti anfib. di Sard. p. 15.
Habitat per omnem annum in Sardiniae cespitosis campis, innocens, 7 1/2 pollices longa.
Cauda 5 pollices longa; femora posteriora subtus linea punctorum callosorum exarata; mas viridis; maculis nigris; femina fusca.
This name is in use as Podarcis tiliguerta (Gmelin 1789), despite it dates from Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784.


Lacerta Tiligugu Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:21 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA237
* Tiligugu. 159. L. cauda tereti mediocri conica, digitis marginati 5, totidemque unguiculis.
Anfibi. 21. -- G. 21.
Habitat in Sardinia.
Corpus crassum. Pedes brevissim, posteriores longiores, Post Lacer. agilem ponenda haec species.
vs. Lacerta Tiligugu Gmelin 1789:1073 - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2656569
Tiligugu. 66. L. cauda tereti mediocri conica, digitis pedum 5 marginatis, totidemque unguiculis. Cetti anfib. di Sard. p. 21.
Habitat in Sardinia, 8 pollices longa.
Corpus crassum, supra fuscum punctis nigris dense aggregatis varium, subtus albidum; pedes brevissimi, posteriores longiores; cauda 3 1/2 pollices longa.
This name is in use as Chalcides ocellatus tiligugu (Gmelin 1789), despite it dates from Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784.


Coluber vipera Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:22 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA238
* Vipera. 163. C. -- 44.
Anfibi 45. -- G. 48.
Infra nigricans, supra terrei coloris, maculis nigris. Longitudo poll. 33. capite et apice caudae truncatis.
Nullus venenatus.
(This one was not used again, I think. The name is an obvious primary homonym of Coluber vipera Linnaeus 1758.)


Sparus pintazzo Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:28 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA244
* Puntazzo. 212. S. ore cuspidato, pina caudali semi-lunati, a latere concavo tota nigra.
Pesci p. 115.-- G. 124.
Statura, colore, magitudine Sargo similis. Puntazzo piscatores genovenses nominant.
vs. Sparus Puntazzo Walbaum 1792:282 - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/41268659
Sparus, Sargus [...]
[α]. Sparus Puntazzo Cetti III. 124.
Facie, colore et magnitudine similis Sargo est. Rostrum acutum. P.C. semilunata ad excavionem nigra.
This name is in use as Diplodus puntazzo (Walbaum 1792), despite it dates from Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784.


Scomber alalunga Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784:31 - https://books.google.com/books?id=r4sFyyJfN3QC&pg=PA247
* Alalunga. 238. S. pinnis pectoralibus longissimis.
Pesci 191 -- G. 198.
Forskal non descripsit.
vs. Scomber alalunga Bonnaterre 1788:139 - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/12059606
XVIII. Genre
SCOMBRE, Scomber.
* L'Alalunga 6. S. Alalunga S. pinnulis septem in extremo dorso: pinnis pectoralibus longissimis.
Sept fausses nageoires à l'extrémité du dos: les nageoires peèlorales très-alongées.
"On aura une idée exacte de ce poisson, dit M. Cetti, si l'on suppose un Thon de douze ou quinze livres, dont l'extrémité des nageoires de la poitrine va aboutir à la seconde nageoire du dos". Il a sept fausses nageoires au dessus, & sept autres au dessous de la queue: sa chair est plus blanche que celle du Thon. Cette espèce de Scombre n'a pas été connue des anciens Ichthyologistes; M. Cetti est le premier qui en a parlé dans son Histoire des Poissons de la Sardaigne, p. 191. La Méditerranée.
This name is in use as Thunnus alalunga (Bonnaterre 1788), despite it dates from Piesch & Leske (in Cetti) 1784.

(Fortunately, Bonnaterre was before Gmelin, who adopted this name in 1789 with the modified spelling Scomber alatunga - https://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/2656821 . Otherwise, the name would presumably be in use with this (incorrect) spelling.)
Last edited:


Well-known member
Amazing. How did everyone else miss this. Perhaps since Cetti was non-binomal translations of that work were ignored. BHL lists the German translation as non-binomal. The word zonca is listed 5 times in vol. 2 not as a scientific name. Charles W. Richmond was smart, well read, and dogged. He had a copy of the German translation but a 1799 reprint. Maybe he figured the names were from 1788 Gmelin?
https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/192385#page/8/mode/1up .
https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/192385#page/7/mode/1up .
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