Saturday, November 28, 2015

George Masters

The photo above and the text by Roslyn Jehne are taken from the University of Sydney website, and the text is only presented here in part. The three Western Ground Parrots in the Australian Museum collection were obtained by George Masters on two separate trips to Western Australia. 

Below the text is the authorization document for the second trip,1868. The document is held by the Australian Museum.

The Macleay Museum owes a great deal of its natural history collection to the enthusiasm of one man: prolific collector George Masters. Roslyn Jehne takes a look at the English gardener who became a fearless Aussie forager.

Naturalist and entomologist George Masters was born in Kent, England in July 1837. He first became interested in natural history while employed as a gardener. Migrating to Melbourne around 1856 or 1857, he was employed first looking after an entomological collection and then spent some time in Tasmania collecting insects for himself.

Masters arrived in Sydney about 1859 or 1860, continuing with his entomology collection in his spare time. While identifying insects at the Australian Museum, he found errors, which he pointed out to the curator Gerard Kreftt. Fate intervened in Masters’ life when he was introduced to William John Macleay (1820–91), Australian Museum Trustee, wealthy pastoralist, collector and politician and beneficiary of the so-called Macleayan Museum, including the famous insect cabinets of the Macleay family. Macleay employed Masters to collect for him in Port Denison in Queensland.

After returning from his trip in July 1862, Masters began collecting and exhibiting in earnest. Also a fine marksman and taxidermist, he collected a variety of bird skins. He was a robust man, who enjoyed the country sports of ‘huntin’, ‘shootin’ and ‘fishin’. Undaunted by the heat of the Australian climate, his personality well suited life as a collector. It was said of him that he was “a splendid shot, fearless in the bush with natives and frequently caught reptiles, including venomous snakes in his bare hands”.

From 1864 to 1874 he worked as Assistant Curator to Kreftt at the Australian Museum, making extensive collecting trips throughout Australia, including NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Lord Howe Island. He also provided Macleay with specimens for his private museum. A prolific collector, Masters was responsible at one time for acquiring a considerable section of the Australian Museum’s collection.  

This authorization document is copyright Australian Museum.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Australian Museum WGPs

Below are three more photos of the Western Ground Parrots held in the Australian Museum Collection. The photos were supplied by Dr Walter Boles of that Museum and are used with permission.

The photos of individual adult female and male show a difference in the beak shape with the male's upper beak being broader with a grooved ridge at the centre.  The female has a sharper, finer ridge. Sometimes males have no groove, but a broad, rounded, ridge. 

The group photo of three adult birds  has the female on the left then two males. A female  held in the Western Australian Museum has a yellower belly than this but she also retains some blotching around the throat and upper breast as this bird (23539) has. Though both are adults, the male in the centre is probably younger than the male on the right (23538). The (presumed) older bird has very little dark blotching and only fine streaks on the throat and upper breast, and the yellow belly is more pronounced.

Juvenile WGPs are heavily blotched and streaked.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Western Ground Parrots in the Australian Museum

The image above was supplied by Dr Walter Boles of the Australian Museum, Sydney and is used with permission.

The three Western Ground Parrot specimens in the Australian Museum collection were all collected by Mr George Masters in the vicinity of King George's Sound, on the south coast of Western Australia near the town of Albany. Western Ground Parrots can no longer be found there.

No.23687 is a male collected in April 1866.

No.23538 is a male collected in April 1866.

No. 23539 is a female bird and was collected on 20 March 1868.

It would seem that Masters returned to the site in 1868 to collect a female for the AM as the birds collected in 1866 were both males.

The female was designated a syntype* by Alfred North in 1911 when he classified the Western Ground Parrots as Pezoporus flaviventris, a separate species from Pezoporus wallicus. This classification was over-ruled by Gregory Mathews a few years later. He classified the Western Ground Parrot as a subspecies: Pezoporus wallicus flaviventris. In 2010 there was a reversion to P. flaviventris and P. wallicus, each as separate species (Murphy et al. 2010).

More on the scientific names for the Western Ground Parrot may be found on the b-log posting of 21 September, 2013, entitled 'Many names'.

* Meaning of syntype (from Wikipedia)

1. One of two or more biological specimens or other elements used for the original published description of a species or subspecies where no holotype was designated.
2. One of two or more biological specimens or other elements simultaneously designated as type specimens in the original published description of a species or subspecies.

Murphy, S.A., Joseph, L., Burbidge, A.H. and Austin, J. (2010). A cryptic and critically endangered species revealed by mitochondrial DNA analyses: the western Ground Parrot. Conservation genetics 12: 595-600.