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Birds of North and Middle America, part V/Superfamily Mesomyodi

 

Superfamily MESOMYODI.[1]

MESOMYODIAN PASSERES.

(Continued.)[2]

= Tracheophones Müller, Abh. k. Ak. Wiss. Berlin, 1846, 1847, 383 (=Formicariidæ + Pteroptochidæ + Furnariidæ + Dendrocolaptidæ). — Newton, Dict. Birds, pt. iv, 1896, 985.
< Tracheophones Cabanis, Wiegmann's Archiv für Naturg., 1847, pt. i, 209 (=Formicariidæ, part + Furnariidæ + Dendrocolaptidæ).
< Tracheophonæ Sclater, Cat. Am. Birds, 1862, 146 (includes Oligomyodi!).
= Tracheophonæ Huxley, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1867, 471. — Sclater and Salvin, Nom. Av. Neotr., 1873, pp. vi, 61. — Garrod, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1877, 452. — Forbes, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1880, 391.— Sclater, Ibis, 1880, 349. — Salvin and Godman, Biol. Centr.-Am., Aves, ii, 1891, 145.
X Tracheophonæ Garrod, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1873, 463 (Pittidæ + Rupicolidæ, + Cotingidæ + Tyrannidæ + Pteroptochidæ + Menuridæ!).
< Anabatidae Cabanis, Wiegmann's Archiv für Naturg., 1847, pt. i, 338 (=Furnariidæ + Dendrocolaptidæ).
< Anabatidae Cabanis and Heine, Mus. Hein., ii, 1860,22. — Lilljeborg, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1866, 16 (=Furnariidæ + Dendrocolaptidæ).
= Formicaroideæ Stejneger, Stand. Nat. Hist., iv, 1885, 476, in text.
= Formicaroidei Cope, Am. Nat., xxiii, Oct., 1889, 873.
< Formicariidae Gadow, Bronn's Thier-Reichs, Vög., ii, 1893, 276, 301 (=Formicariidæ + Furnariidæ + Dendrocolaptidæ).
< Dendrocolaptinae Gadow, Bronn's Thier-Reichs, Vög., ii, 1893, 276 (=Dendrocolaptidæ + Furnariidæ).
< Pteroptochidae Gadow, Bronn's Thier-Reichs, Vög., ii, 1893, 277, 301 (=Pteroptochidæ + Conopophagidæ).

The characters of the Tracheophone Mesomyodi were briefly given on pages 331 and 332, Part IV, of the present work. The group is now considered in detail, and a new key to the families presented, based upon more extended or special study.

CHARACTERS OF THE TRACHEOPHONE MESOMYODI.

Mesomyodian Passeres with (usually) a single pair of syringeal muscles, attached to the middle portion of the bronchial semirings, the syrinx tracheal, the lower end of the trachea consisting of thin, membraneous walls, about six of the usual semirings extremely thin, sometimes obsolete, the bronchi with both outer and inner tympaniform membranes, vibratory tracheal membranes being also present, the few muscles (usually only one pair) wholly lateral (being thus specially modified as a vocal organ ;)[3] feet schizopelmous; tensor patagii brevis passerine.

The Tracheophone Passeres are (excepting the small family Xenicidæ of New Zealand) a purely Neotropical group of birds, though, like many others, entirely absent from the Antillean Subregion. The various members bear a more or less close resemblance in external appearance as well as in habits to certain Oscinine families, though very distinct in their internal structure. Thus, among the Formicariidæ (Antbirds), some forms closely resemble Shrikes (Laniidæ), others Wrens (Troglodytidæ), and others again are strikingly similar to the Pittas (Pittidæ)[4] in form, though lacking entirely the beautiful coloration of the latter. The Dendrocolaptidæ and Furnariidæ embrace species which, so far as external appearance goes, might pass readily for Tree Creepers (Certhiidæ), Thrushes (Turdidæ), or even Larks (Alaudidæ) ; the smaller Pteroptochidæ are conspicuously wrenlike, while some of the Conopophagidæ are not very unlike Pipits (Motacillidæ). While they vary greatly in size, form, and habits, a plain coloration characterizes the entire group, not a single species possessing a brilliant plumage, while the majority are among the dullest colored of birds. They are mostly forest birds, though the Pteroptochidæ and some of the Furnariidæ inhabit bushy tracts or even more open places. The Pteroptochidæ, Conopophagidæ, and Formicariidæ are chiefly terrestrial, but the Dendrocolaptidæ and many of the Furnariidæ glean their food from the trunks of forest trees, in the manner of Woodpeckers and Creepers.

In Dr. Sclater's catalogue of the Tracheophonse,[5] 559 species are recognized ; but since this number represents only those that were autoptically known to the author it may safely be assumed that the actual number of recognizable forms, including subspecies, is not far from 800.[6]

KEY TO THE FAMILIES OF TRACHEOPHONÆ.

a. Only one pair of tracheo-bronchial muscles; metasternum 4-notched, or else (in Formicariidæ) tensor patagii brevis tendon normally passerine and nares holorhinal; tarsal envelope not exaspidean (endaspidean, taxaspidean, or holaspidean).

b. Metasternum 4-notched; tensor patagii brevis tendon quasi-picarian.[7]
c. Interorbital septum perforate; postorbital process small, placed low down on side of skull; maxillo-palatines long and slender, curved backward; vomer short, with long limbs; intrinsic muscles present; sterno-trachealis not attached to processus vocales; palate ægithognathous (oscinine); mesorhinium compressed and arched or else expanded into a flattened oval shield; nostrils conspicuously operculate; tarsal envelope taxaspidean or holaspidean.

Pteroptochidæ (p. 4)

cc. Interorbital septum wanting; postorbital process wanting; maxillo-palatine long, narrow, angulated, continued backward to the level of the median descending plate of the palatine; intrinsic muscles wanting; sternotrachealis not attached to processus vocales; palate schizognathous; mesorhinium normal; nostrils not conspicuously operculate; tarsal envelope exaspidean

Conopophagidæ (extralimital).[8]

bb. Metasternum 2-notched; tensor patagii brevis tendon normally passerine.[9]

Formicariidæ (p. 8).

aa. Two pairs of tracheo-bronchial muscles; metasternum 2-notched; tarsal envelope endaspidean.

b. Nares schizorhinal; maxillo-palatines long and slender, continued backward to or beyond level of the free end of the median descending plate of the palatine; interorbital septum perforate; palate schizognathous; outer toe decidedly (usually much) shorter than middle toe and not conspicuously longer than inner toe (except in Sclerurus and Pygarrhicus) and united to middle toe for not more (usually less) than whole length of basal phalanx of the latter; hallux (without claw) as long as inner toe (without claw) or longer, much stouter.

Fumariidæ (p. 157).

bb. Nares holorhinal; maxillo-palatines short and broad, crossing posterior end of olfactory fossa and terminating immediately in front of the descending plate of the palatine; interorbital septum imperforate; palate ægithognathous or semi-desmognathous; outer toe as long as middle toe, much longer than inner toe, united to middle toe for more than whole length of basal phalanx of the latter; hallux (without claw) shorter than inner toe (without claw), little, if any, stouter.

Dendrocolaptidæ (p. 224).


  1. See Part IV, pages 328-332 of this work.
  2. See Part IV, pages 328-332 of this work.
  3. This peculiar structure of the organs of voice is thus described by its discoverer, Johannes Müller ("Ueber die bisher unbekannten typischen der Stimmorgane der Passerinen" (title incomplete), von J. Müller, Berlin, 1847): "The lower end of the trachea is flattened anteriorly and posteriorly; its walls are thin and membranous and contain extremely fine anterior and posterior half-rings, which are fastened at the sides by long elastic bands. The position of these half-rings is altered by the muscles attached to their sides. In all these birds the cartilaginous pessulus in the furcation of the trachea is wanting, and is replaced by a tendinous strap. The membrana tympaniformis passes over from one bronchus to the other. The bronchi contain half rings only. The membranous wall of the voice organ consists of two thin transparent membranes, of which the inner one is the mucous membrane." By Professor Alfred Newton it is described (Dictionary of Birds, Part iv, p. 940) as follows: "The lower portion of the Trachea consists of thin membranaceous walls, about six of the rings being extremely thin or, as often happens, deficient. Both inner and outer tympaniform membranes exist in the Bronchi as well as some vibratory tracheal membranes. The few muscles, generally but one pair, are wholly lateral. The birds thus furnished are the Tracheophonæ; their voice is very loud, and while it is being sounded the lower part of the throat swells out."
  4. This, however, not an Oscinine family, but a member of the Oligomyodean or Haploophone group of Mesomyodi.
  5. Catalogue | of the | Passeriformes, | or | Perching Birds | in the | Collection | of the | British Museum. | — | Tracheophonæ, | or the Families | Dendrocolaptidæ, | Formicariidæ, | Conopophagidæ, and Pteroptochidæ. | By | Philip Lutley Sclater. | London: | Printed by order of the Trustees. | 1890. — 8vo, pp. xviii × 372, pl. xx. (Volume XV of the "Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum.")
  6. In Sharpe's Hand List of the Genera and Species of Birds (vol. iii, 1901, pp. 4-87) the number of forms recognized as belonging to the American Families alone is 799, as follows:
    Species. Genera.
    Pteroptochidæ 31 8
    Conopophagidæ 16 2
    Formicariidæ 347 38
    Furnariidæ 278 37
    Dendrocolaptidæ 127 14
    Total 799 99

    The enumeration of species, however, includes subspecies, which are not distinguished typographically or otherwise in the list. The Furnariidæ and Dendrocolaptidæ are treated as one family, as in the British Museum catalogue.

  7. The returning portion concealed by the muscular fibers at the origin of the extensor metacarpi muscle. (See Stejneger, Standard Nat. Hist., Birds, p. 476.)
  8. = Conopophaginæ Sclater and Salvin, Nom. Av. Neotr., 1873, 41; Gadow, Bronn's Thier-Reichs, Vög., ii, 1891, 277. = Conopophagidæ Garrod, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1877, 452; Forbes, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1881, 436, 438; Stejneger, Stand. Nat. Hist., iv, 1885, 476; Cope, Am. Nat., xxiii, 1889, 873; Salvin and Godman, Biol. Centr.-Am., Aves, ii, 1892, 245. A small group of two genera and about sixteen species, peculiar to South America, from Colombia to Guiana, southeastern Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru.
  9. The returning portion not concealed by the muscular fiber at the origin of the extensor metacarpi muscle, but the two tendons of this portion clearly exposed to view. (See Stejneger, Standard Nat. Hist., Birds, p. 459 and fig. A on p. 458.)