[Coral-List] Comments Needed on Federal ESA Listing of Three Coral Species

VassilZlatarski at aol.com VassilZlatarski at aol.com
Sun Aug 15 07:21:31 EDT 2004

Dear Listers,

Efforts to protect the "three species" of Caribbean Acropora are necessary.

However, A. prolifera lies in a special category.  In the past it was 
described many times as a separate species, but my field observations and collection 
work cast doubt on its independent status.  I described it in 1982 as A. 
prolifera ?, leaving to the future studies to find satisfactory answer.  Now 
important discoveries of scleractinian life history traits offer possibilities of 
new taxonomic interpretations.  Carden Wallace (1999) suggested that A. 
prolifera may occur as a hybrid between the other two Caribbean Acropora species.  The 
hybrid nature of A. prolifera was then shown by works of van Oppen, Willis, 
van Vugt and Miller (2000), Vollmer and Palumbi (2002) and Miller and van Oppen 
(2003).  There are also some indications of a possible pedomorphosis effect 
as cause of prolifera morphology. 

In taking measures to protect Caribbean Acropora it may be necessary to 
address whether or not the regulations cover hybrids.  The hybrid nature of A. 
prolifera and its obviously limited reproductive potential needs additional 
special attention and care.

This case brings out how important the taxonomy is in decisions and plans to 
save the biological diversity.  A workshop on taxonomy and nomenclature of 
Caribbean scleractinians could not only help to this problem, but to facilitate 
better communication among coral workers.

With best wishes, 

Vassil Zlatarski
131 Fales Rd.,
Bristol, RI 02809
phone: +1-401-254-5121

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