|Overview of the taxonomy of zooxanthellate Scleractinia|In: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London. ISSN 0024-4082, more
Biogeography; Corals; Taxonomy; Scleractinia [WoRMS]; Marine
Historical taxonomy; Molecular taxonomy; Morphological taxonomy
Coral taxonomy has entered a historical phase where nomenclatorial uncertainty is rapidly increasing. The fundamental cause is mandatory adherence to historical monographs that lack essential information of all sorts, and also to type specimens, if they exist at all, that are commonly unrecognizable fragments or are uncharacteristic of the species they are believed to represent. Historical problems, including incorrect subsequent type species designations, also create uncertainty for many well-established genera. The advent of in situ studies in the 1970s revealed these issues; now molecular technology is again changing the taxonomic landscape. The competing methodologies involved must be seen in context if they are to avoid becoming an additional basis for continuing nomenclatorial instability. To prevent this happening, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) will need to focus on rules that consolidate well-established nomenclature and allow for the designation of new type specimens that are unambiguous, and which include both skeletal material and soft tissue for molecular study. Taxonomic and biogeographic findings have now become linked, with molecular methodologies providing the capacity to re-visit past taxonomic decisions, and to extend both taxonomy and biogeography into the realm of evolutionary theory. It is proposed that most species will ultimately be seen as operational taxonomic units that are human rather than natural constructs, which in consequence will always have fuzzy morphological, genetic, and distribution boundaries. The pathway ahead calls for the integration of morphological and molecular taxonomies, and for website delivery of information that crosses current discipline boundaries.