[Coral-List] [Coral List] Coral nomenclature/taxonomy

VassilZlatarski at aol.com VassilZlatarski at aol.com
Tue Feb 3 17:29:30 EST 2004

[Coral-List] Coral nomenclature/taxonomy
Dear Listers,
Somehow our non-Caribbean colleagues were exonerated from the heat of the 
discussion and I imagine their enjoyment.
Instead of focusing only on the saga of Montastraea annularis s. l. why do 
not we try to look for the roots of the problem and how can we fix it?  
Personally, I am a victim of this problem because of the time factor. Thirty or forty 
years ago, when I made my first steps in nomenclature and taxonomy, I was not 
able to use the tremendous enrichment of the scleractinian knowledge achieved 
during last two decades.  Recently I have tried to update my understandings 
and I prepared a university course/workshop on Scleractinian Low-Level Taxonomy 
where I gratefully faced challenging unbiased questions.
Why is the scleractinian species is so troubling, and may we simplify the 
problem?  The difficulty in defining the scleractinian species may be attributed 
to two factors:  the objective nature of these elusive organisms, and the 
subjective impact of us as researchers.  Because coral nature is, except within 
the narrow boundaries of certain controlled experiments, independent of our 
will, our only hope for developing a more objective concept lies in striving for 
improved researcher techniques and approaches.  There are three areas in which 
our subjective impact may hinder resolution of the scleractinian species - 
nomenclature (N), ethics (E) and taxonomy (T) - and shifts in these three 
paradigms will lead to more objective results.  This focus on NET results requires 
introspection on the personal, inter-colleague and international levels.  The 
International Code of Zoological Nomenclature offers a tool for regulating 
nomenclature procedures, but it has been troublingly ignored recently.  Ethical 
issues require appeals to our conscience, study of the existing material and 
publications, recognition of the necessity of publishing following peer review by 
specialists and use of quality tests. Taxonomy is a long process starting with 
sampling, which can be the first Achilles heel if it does not represent all 
kinds and levels of variability.  I will not go further.  The taxonomy can be 
facilitated by constantly updated species notions and a holistic approach.  
Present-day knowledge on extant and fossil Scleractinia suggests that eleven 
variables be taken into account in defining species.
Our colleguium may contribute considerably by reducing the subjective impact. 
 I believe that this discussion has been followed widely and it will be great 
to hear from specialists globally, from the respected colleagues, veterans, 
new pioneers and grant-recipients. Why not to try to define the future 
strategies for scleractinian taxonomic research?

With best wishes,
Vassil Zlatarski
131Fales Rd.,
Bristol, RI 02809

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