[Coral-List] [Coral List] Coral nomenclature/taxonomy
jackie.wolstenholme at jcu.edu.au
Tue Feb 3 22:09:11 EST 2004
First, I would like to say that I am very pleased to see this
discussion on Coral List and am looking forward to further
discussion at the 10 ISRS. To contribute to this discussion,
I would like to highlight some of the findings of my
research. To fully resolve issues of species boundaries and
evolutionary relationships between species, I believe it will
be critical to recognise morphs within and between species as
distinct sampling units, as suggested in the previous emails
and is being done eg for the M. annularis complex. I have
conducted two studies in the pacific ocean on the genus
Acropora which demonstrate this.
In American Samoa, I recognised two distinct morphs of the
species A. monticulosa based on morphological appearance.
Preliminary molecular data (domains 1 and 2 of 28SrDNA) also
demonstrates a distinction between these morphs. In contrast
morphological variation between putative morphs of A. humilis
were not reflected in the molecular data with all colonies of
these morphs showing a close relationship. Even more
surprising was the lack of genetic differentiation of A.
gemmifera from A. humilis, despite it being morphologically
In a second study at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef,
a close relationship between A. humilis and A. gemmifera was
also evident, based on the mtDNA intergenic region.
Morphologically these species were also less distinct at
Lizard Island than American Samoa. By using morphs rather
than species, I was also able tease out the evolutionary
distinction of a morph that to my knowledge has been
identified as both A. digitifera and A. gemmifera. In this
study, I demonstrate that this morph is distinct from each of
these species, spawning at the same time as A. gemmifera but
about 3 months out of phase with A. digitifera. This morph
was genetically indistinguishable from A. digitifera.
Morphologically, it is intermediate between the two species.
It is also more common than any other species of Acropora at
The issue of what these morphs represent in evolutionary
terms is complicated and remains unresolved. Undoubtedly
though, the recognition of such morphs will greatly
facilitate our understanding of relationships between species
and where boundaries between species should be delineated.
Studies over broad geographic scales will be necessary to
fully resolve these issues. At this stage, as suggested by
Judy, it is definitely worthwhile distinguishing between
morphs within species.
The reference for the first paper is:
Wolstenholme JK, Wallace CC and Chen CA 2003 Species
Boundaries within the Acropora humilis species group
(Cnidaria; Scleractinia): a morphological and molecular
interpretation of evolution. Coral Reefs: 22: 155-166.
The second paper will be published in Marine Biology and is
currently available online:
Wolstenholme JK (2004) Temporal reproductive isolation and
gametic compatibility are evolutionary mechanisms in the
Acropora humilis species group (Cnidara; Scleractinia)
(accepted 10 Oct 2003).
Museum of Tropical Queensland, 70-102 Flinders Street,
TOWNSVILLE QLD 4810
Phone: 61 7 4726 0642, Fax: 61 7 4721 2093
---- Original message ----
>Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 17:29:30 EST
>From: VassilZlatarski at aol.com
>Subject: [Coral-List] [Coral List] Coral
>To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>[Coral-List] Coral nomenclature/taxonomy
>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
>during last two decades. Recently I have tried to update my
>and I prepared a university course/workshop on Scleractinian
>where I gratefully faced challenging unbiased questions.
>Why is the scleractinian species is so troubling, and may we
>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
>nomenclature procedures, but it has been troublingly ignored
>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
>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
> I believe that this discussion has been followed widely and
it will be great
>to hear from specialists globally, from the respected
>new pioneers and grant-recipients. Why not to try to define
>strategies for scleractinian taxonomic research?
>With best wishes,
>Bristol, RI 02809
>Coral-List mailing list
>Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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