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

Jackie Wolstenholme jackie.wolstenholme at jcu.edu.au
Tue Feb 3 22:09:11 EST 2004

Hi All
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 
Lizard Island!

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).

Jackie Wolstenholme
Museum of Tropical Queensland, 70-102 Flinders Street, 
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
>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 
>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
>Coral-List mailing list
>Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

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