Saturday, June 23, 2018

[Ornithology • 2017] On Temminck’s Tailless Ceylon Junglefowl, Gallus ecaudatus, and How Darwin denied their Existence


 Lithograph of Gallus ecaudatus, based on specimen RMNH. AVES.224888, by Jean-Gabriel Prêtre prepared c.1806 for an illustrated work in three volumes that Temminck intended to publish on pigeons and Galliformes.

in van Grouw, Dekkers & Rookmaaker, 2017.
Bull. B.O.C. 137(4) 

  Summary
Ceylon Junglefowl was described in 1807 by the Dutch ornithologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck. The specimens he examined were tailless (‘rumpless’) and therefore he named them Gallus ecaudatus. In 1831 the French naturalist René Primevère Lesson described a Ceylon Junglefowl with a tail as Gallus lafayetii (= lafayetii), apparently unaware of Temminck’s ecaudatus. Subsequently, ecaudatus and lafayetii were realised to be the same species, of which G. stanleyi and G. lineatus are junior synonyms. However, Charles Darwin tried to disprove the existence of wild tailless junglefowl on Ceylon in favour of his theory on the origin of the domestic chicken. 


‘The tailless cock inhabits the immense forests of the island of Ceylon’ (Temminck 1813: 268). 

 ‘… but this statement [tailless fowls are wild in Ceylon] … is uterly false’ (Darwin 1868: 259).


Figure 2. Lithograph of Gallus ecaudatus, based on specimen RMNH. AVES.224888, by Jean-Gabriel Prêtre prepared c.1806 for an illustrated work in three volumes that Temminck intended to publish on pigeons and Galliformes. Only the volume on pigeons was published, in 1808, and the two volumes on Galliformes never appeared due to a confict between Temminck and the French illustrator of the frst volume, Pauline Knip (Dickinson et al. 2010). Instead, Temminck later published Histoire naturelle générale des pigeons et des gallinacés in three volumes (1813–15) without any colour illustrations. The reference ‘Gall. v. 1. pl. Enl.’ in Temminck’s published catalogue (1807) refers to the frst of the two unpublished volumes on Galliformes, which would have been vol. 2 of the complete work (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden)


Hein van Grouw, Wim Dekkers and Kees Rookmaaker. 2017. On Temminck’s Tailless Ceylon Junglefowl, and How Darwin denied their Existence. Bull. B.O.C. 137(4); 261-271



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