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Volume 25, 1892
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Art. XIX.—Synonymical Notes on New Zealand Cicadidæ.

[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 7th December, 1892.]

The publication of my paper on the New Zealand Cicadidœ, read before this Society on the 23rd July, 1890, appears to have aroused Mr. W. L. Distant, who has, after having been furnished with another series of specimens, made the following corrections in the naming and classification of these insects. Had the first two or three consignments received attention, my paper would never have appeared in its present shape, and

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these confusing corrections and alterations would have been obviated. I feel it necessary to make some little explanation in connection with this matter, as it would appear from Mr. Distant's remarks (“Annals and Magazine of Natural History,” April, 1892, pages 313 and 326) that I have been guilty of “perfunctory and hasty work” in describing species as new which were already known. As a matter of fact, it is impossible for collectors in New Zealand to identify their captures amongst the lesser-known orders of insects except by the aid of European authorities, and in this instance I did not describe these Cicadidœ until I had made every effort to obtain correct information on the subject. Some years ago a well-known New Zealand naturalist advised me to describe anything I did not know as “new,” leaving the European authors to make the necessary corrections in the synonymy which would naturally result. It is almost needless to say that I have not followed this advice, but have in all cases submitted the specimens to competent authorities, as I consider that the creation of synonyms in any branch of natural history is most undesirable.

The following are the alterations above referred to:—(From “Annals and Magazine of Natural History,” 1892, pp. 326, 327.) Melampsalta muta, Fabr.

Cicada muta, Huds. (part). Trans. N.Z. Inst., xxiii., p. 51 (1890).

Cicada aprilina, Huds. Ibid., p. 53 (1890).

Melampsalta angusta, Walker.

Cicada muta, Huds. (part). Trans. N.Z. Inst., xxiii., p. 51 (1890).

Melampsalta scutellaris, Walker.

Cicada tristis, Huds., l.c., p. 52.

Melampsalta iolanthe, Huds.

Cicada iolanthe, Huds., l.c., p. 53.

Melampsalta nervosa, Walk.

Cicada cassiope, Huds., l.c., p. 54.

I do not for a moment question the accuracy of the above conclusions, except in the case of Cicada aprilina, Huds., which I firmly believe to be a good species. I have taken at least twenty specimens of this insect, and amongst all these I have not found one with the slightest tendency to vary in the direction of any of the other species, or, in fact, in any direction whatsoever. It is evidently, then, a “constant variety,” and, if constancy of characters does not denote a species, I fear that we should find considerable difficulty in discriminating between “species” and “varieties” anywhere.