Vegetarian Finch - Systematics


The Vegetarian Finch is one of Darwin's finches, a group of closely related birds which evolved on the Galápagos Islands. The group is related to the Tiaris grassquits, which are found in South America and the Caribbean. An ancestral relative of those grassquits arrived on the Galápagos Islands some 2–3 million years ago, and the Vegetarian Finch is an early evolutionary radiation from that ancestor.

When Darwin first collected the species in 1835, he assumed it was a finch. John Gould, who formally described the Vegetarian Finch in 1837, agreed and assigned it to the genus Fringilla. By 1841, Gould had changed his mind, and moved the species to the genus Camarhynchus, lumping it with the ground and cactus finches. Robert Ridgway separated it from the other species in 1896, assigning it to a new genus Platyspiza. DNA research has now shown that all Darwin's "finches" are actually tanagers.

The Vegetarian Finch is the sole member of the genus Platyspiza, which some taxonomists still subsume into the genus Camarhynchus. The genus name Platyspiza comes from the Greek platus, meaning "broad" and spiza, meaning "finch". The specific name crassirostris comes from the Latin crassus, meaning "heavy" or "thick" and rostris, meaning "-billed" (rostrum = bill). The "Vegetarian" of its common name refers to its primary diet.

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