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Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Cladus: Avemetatarsalia
Cladus: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauriformes
Cladus: Dracohors
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Subordo: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Tyrannoraptora
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Paraves
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Cladus: Neoaves
Cladus: Telluraves
Cladus: Australaves
Ordo: Passeriformes
Subordo: Passeri
Infraordo: Passerida
Superfamilia: Muscicapoidea

Familia: Muscicapidae
Genus: Sheppardia

Species: S. aequatorialisS. aurantiithoraxS. bocageiS. cyornithopsis – S. gabela – S. gunningi – S. lowei – S. montana – S. sharpei

Sheppardia Haagner, 1909

Annals of the Transvaal Museum 1: 180.

Vernacular names
English: Akalat
Esperanto: Akalatoj
suomi: Rusorinnat
Nederlands: Akalat
polski: Koloratka
русский: Акалаты

The akalats (stressed on the second syllable)[1] are medium-sized insectivorous birds in the genus Sheppardia. They were formerly placed in the thrush family, Turdidae, but are more often now treated as part of the Old World flycatcher family, Muscicapidae.

They include ten Sub-Saharan forest-dwelling species:[2]

Short-tailed akalat, Sheppardia poensis[3]
Bocage's akalat, Sheppardia bocagei
Lowland akalat, Sheppardia cyornithopsis
Equatorial akalat, Sheppardia aequatorialis
Sharpe's akalat, Sheppardia sharpei
East coast akalat, Sheppardia gunningi
Gabela akalat, Sheppardia gabela
Rubeho akalat, Sheppardia aurantiithorax
Usambara akalat, Sheppardia montana
Iringa akalat, Sheppardia lowei

Taxonomy and etymology

The genus Sheppardia was introduced in 1909 by the South African ornithologist Alwin Karl Haagner with the East coast akalat (Sheppardia gunningi) as the type species.[4] The name of the genus was chosen to honour the collector and farmer P. A. Sheppard.[4][5][6]

Richard Bowdler Sharpe, who had never visited Africa, associated the akalats, in their Bulu appellation, with birds of "different kinds" occurring in the forest understorey.[7] His main collector in West Africa, George L. Bates, denoted them more specifically as "little members of the genus Turdinus, which are called in Fang and Bulu "Akalat"....".[8] The latter genus denoted a group of Old World babblers, currently classed as near-babblers in the genus Illadopsis.

David Armitage Bannerman's volumes on West African birds, published from 1930 through to 1951, became well-established reference works for the region, and retained the name akalat for Trichastoma, which is Illadopsis. Reichenow however classed Turdinus batesi as an Alethe,[9] then in the Turdidae (thrushes and flycatchers), followed by Jackson and Sclater in 1938 who applied it to Sheppardia specifically.[10] Mackworth-Praed and Grant (1953, 1955) and Williams (1963 - 1980s) retained their usage. In 1964 the name was still recorded as denoting both groups, namely the Malococincla, i.e. Illadopsis near-babblers in West Africa, and the Sheppardia chats in East African literature,[11] though the latter convention prevailed in modern times.

Yet the calls of the aforementioned species only doubtfully agree with the akalat's appellation as an omen of death. It is recorded that the akalat's forest song, respectively referred to as "boofio" and "woofio" by the Bulu and Ntumu peoples, is believed by them to predict the death of a near parent who bids them farewell with this song.[12]

As recorded by George L. Bates
Gill, Frank; Donsker, David (eds.). "Chats, Old World flycatchers". World Bird List Version 6.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
"Species Updates – IOC World Bird List". Retrieved 2021-06-18.
Haagner, Alwin Karl (1909). "Descriptions of two new species of flycatchers from the Portuguese south-east Africa". Annals of the Transvaal Museum. 1: 179–180 [180].
Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 355. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
Plug, C. "S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science". S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
Sharpe, R.B. (1904). "On further collections of birds from the Efulen District of Camaroon, West Africa, Part II". Ibis. 46 (4): 591–638. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919x.1904.tb00524.x.
Sharpe, R.B. (1908). "On further collections of birds from the Efulen District of Camaroon, West Africa, Part V". Ibis. 46 (9): 117–129 [119]. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1908.tb05213.x.
Reichenow, A. (1905). Die Vögel Afrikas, Vol. 3. Neudamm: J. Neumann.
Jackson, F.J. & Sclater W.L. (1938). The birds of Kenya Colony and the Uganda Protectorate, Vol. 2. London: Gurney & Jackson.
A New Dictionary of Birds, ed. Sir A. Landsborough Thomson (London, Nelson, 1964)
Culture Vive, Phénomène des Présages Chez les Fang/Beti, under Beti-Fang-Bulu, retrieved 4 July 2017: Un autre présage de mort est le chant de l’oiseau appelé «akalat», chez les Bulu «Boofio», chez les Ntumu «Woofio». Ce chant est toujours entendu dans la forêt et prédit la mort d’un proche parent qui par ce chant vous fait ses adieux.

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