[Coral-List] Shifting baselines and name changes

Fautin, Daphne G. fautin at ku.edu
Fri Sep 20 14:52:03 EDT 2013

Dear Colleagues,

The statement regarding the Veron publication is not quite right. I am a Commissioner of the ICZN and was deeply involved in the publication concerning Veron -- which, as you can see, is not an Opinion. The Commission typically becomes involved when application of the Code leads to ambiguity or instability. For example, if two genera, which are not homonyms, have the same Latin stem, the family-group names derived from them will be identical.  So if they are both type genera of families, application of the Code will lead to homonymy. Thus some of the cases we adjudicate are proposals for family groups names that are not formed strictly according to the Code -- they are formed this way to avoid homonymy.  The Commission must approve the non-standard name.  A senior name may be set aside in favor of a junior one if use of the senior one would produce instability.  The Commission must approve this non-standard procedure.  These are Opinions -- affirming an action that is contrary to the Code.

In the case of Veron, contrary to the message, he did not publish the names "without meeting the requirement for the availability that went into effect with the last edition of" of the Code.  He met the Code -- Article 86.1.2 of the Code states "If an author submits for publication before 1 January 2000 a work containing names or nomenclatural acts proposed under the provisions of the third (1985) edition of the Code which was then in force, but the work is not published until after 31 December 1999, the names or acts are not to be set aside on the grounds that they do not comply with the changed provisions of the fourth edition."

The message goes on to state "Not until 2011 the Commission confirmed only the potential availability of coral taxon names, remaining for subsequent workers to confirm availability of each name." The latter part of this statement is true of any newly published names -- so the Commission does not regard these names as different from others. The implication is that the Commission took more than a decade to act.  In fact, technically there was no need for any action on the part of the Commission. The names were published in accordance with the Code, as is true of nearly all new scientific names that are published -- and the Commission does nothing about them. The problem arose because coral workers questioned whether the names were available, the book in which they were published having come out after the new edition of the Code took effect.  This prompted Veron to publish the additional list of type specimens, but that did not solve the matter of availability of names (in part because the names were already at least potentially available.) The final part of Article 86.1.2 reads "The Commission should be asked to validate the names or acts." Given that the community was confused about the status of the names in Veron (2000), it become clear that this step was necessary -- and once Veron made the request, the Commission promptly confirmed that the names were published in accordance with the 4th edition of the Code (specifically Article 86.1.2). This is not an opinion because its purpose is not to allow an action contrary to the Code -- it is simply a statement affirming that actions were taken according to the Code.

Daphne (ICZN Commissioner)

Daphne G. Fautin
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Curator, Natural History Museum (Biodiversity Institute)
University of Kansas
1200 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, Kansas 66045 USA

telephone 1-785-864-3062
fax 1-785-864-5321
skype user name daphne.fautin
evo user name fautin
website: invertebratezoology.biodiversity.ku.edu/home
cv: www.nhm.ku.edu/inverts/daphne.html

    database of hexacorals, including sea anemones
       newest version released 2 January 2013

From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] on behalf of vassil zlatarski [vzlatarski at yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 19, 2013 9:21 AM
To: Coral -List
Subject: [Coral-List] Shifting baselines and name changes

Dear Coral-Listers,

For corals, the proposals and changes of scientific names are regulated by
the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).  In complicated cases the decisions are requested and taken by the
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. Lately, there are
two decisions about scleractinian corals  In the first, the Opinion 2061 (March, 2004) conserved the name Mussa, 1815.  Regarding the second,
J.E.N. Veron published in 2000103 species names, one generic name and one family name without meeting the requirement for the availability that went into effect with the
last edition of ICZN and this prompted the author to published in addition to the three blue volumes ("Corals of the world") another
volumes in 2002 ("New species described in Corals of the World") to meet the requirements. Not until 2011 the Commission confirmed only the
potential availability of coral taxon names, remaining for subsequent
workers to confirm availability of each name.

It is fundamental that none of the provisions and
recommendations of ICZN restricts the freedom of taxonomic thought or
action.  The scleractinian taxonomy paid dear price of this freedom.  In
 the middle of the last century were applied simultaneously two taxonomic approaches:
the traditional, by using macromorphological characters and the one of Paris
coral school, also using micromorphological characters, with more
microstructural observations and study of exceptional skeleton
variability.  The micromorphology and microstructure were
"rediscovered" in the end of the century, parallel with attempts for
more integrative approach.  Unfortunately, the variability very seldom
received and receives the necessary attention and as result the taxonomy
 obtains more monotypic character, which is step back farther of the
coral nature.  In the mentioned in this thread monograph "Taxonomic
classifications of the reef coral family Mussidae
 (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Scleractinia)" by A.B.
 Budd, N. Fukami, N.S. Smith and N. Knowlton are used molecular and
morphological data, but there is a lack of variability information and
the sampling size is very limited.  As artifact, as always with less
studied material, it looks like the coral species are more clear.  The
taxonomic difficulties appear with larger sampling.  For sure, with more samples
would not be so easy to design illustration as the Figure 22 (p. 513)
about Mussa and Scolymia. The used molecular and morphological
information in that monograph suggest considerable changes in the
classification, but only after exhausting all taxonomic tools and
available material such changes would be convincing and justified for
everyday usage.  To note also, that in the monograph in question are not always used
 the referred in the end publications, e.g., it was followed (p. 514)
blindly and repeated the declaration of Veron (2002), which is wrong by stating that
in 1982 two authors synonymized Scolymia lacera
 with Mussa angulosa.

The taxonomic decisions and classifications are in the hands of the researchers and from there are serving for better knowledge and preservation of biodiversity.  In practice, they affect all users of taxa names.  From here are the responsibility of taxonomic decisions and the attempts for their improvement.



Vassil Zlatarski

D.Sc. (Biology), Ph.D. (Geology)

131 Fales Rd., Bristol, RI 02809, USA;  tel.: +1-401-254-5121
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