[Coral-List] Shifting baselines and name changes

vassil zlatarski vzlatarski at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 19 10:21:29 EDT 2013

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

More information about the Coral-List mailing list