[Coral-List] The Scientific Naturalist

Charles Birkeland charlesb at hawaii.edu
Thu Feb 16 19:41:13 EST 2017

A few months ago, Peter Sale admonished us that we should take care to know
the biology and natural history of the species we are dealing with in our
studies. That was also the first advice I remember from the late Bob Paine
52 years ago.  John Pastor, one of the editors for the ESA journals, has
launched a new series in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment named The
Scientific Naturalist. As pointed out with neat and clear examples by Paul
Dayton (1973 …making the right prediction for the wrong reason. Am Nat 107:
662-670) and WR Tschinkel and EO Wilson (2014 Scientific Natural History:
telling the epics of nature. BioScience  64:438-443), well-designed
manipulative controlled field experiments and matches of theoretical models
to observations in nature can be totally misinterpreted if assumptions
about the biology and natural history of the species involved are wrong.

To paraphrase John Pastor, all submissions to The Scientific Naturalist
will include a striking and high-quality photo and essay on some previously
unknown aspect of the species’ life-cycle or ecology that opens new
questions or hypotheses. Including a simple figure or table of data is
strongly encouraged. See an example at:


The essay will be no longer than 1500 words. The manuscripts will be
reviewed for scientific content and quality of writing by an editorial
board devoted specifically to this series.

Manuscripts including photos should be submitted to

More details are available in the types of contributions section of the
author guidelines at:


Coral-reef organisms must certainly engage in many important, yet still
unknown, interactions. The terrestrial and freshwater habitats are rich in
species, but coral reefs are rich in total phyla and in combinations of
phyla in individual organisms. The terrestrial and freshwater environments
cover about 29% of Earth’s surface and host 19 phyla. Coral reefs occupy
substantially less than 1% of Earth’s surface, yet a 5 m2 quadrat on a
Caribbean reef hosted 27 phyla (Small et a. 1998 Atoll Res Bull 458: 1-20).
Animals, legumes, and other organisms in the terrestrial environment are
symbiotic combinations with organisms from other domains in their guts or
nodules, but coral-reef organisms often consist of more obvious and modular
combinations of phyla and domains.  I suspect most of the contributions so
far to The Scientific Naturalist series are from terrestrial environments,
but because of these added interactions among phyla, I imagine coral reefs
have a lot of potential to contribute more from us. Please think about this
and consider if you have experienced any surprising natural history
observations that have given you new insights.


More information about the Coral-List mailing list