[Annelida] Plea for Capitella capitata

Mary E. Petersen mepetersen at maine.edu
Tue Jun 13 00:21:50 EST 2006

Dear Sergio and others,

Geoff's letter reminded me that I had not sent this yet.

I agree that we need to redescribe the type species of Capitella, and also
the type species of a lot of other genera. However, let's not panic! It is
also important that when the redescriptions must be based on neotypes, they
are based on material from as close to the type locality as possible, so
that we do not end up with a species name that no longer can be used for a
species at the original type locality of a species. This is to some extent
also expressed by Geoff's statement:

"I would hope that the above [designation and deposition of a neotype for C.
capitata..."] would come to pass a long, long way further on, subsequent to
combined molecular and morphological work."

Capitella capitata is not the only type species for which we do not have
types, and it is not the only species that has been misinterpreted. The
failure to give many of the newly discovered (and described) species of
Capitella names is not something based on anything in the International Code
of Zoological Nomenclature, as if it were, we would be unable to describe
new species in a large number of taxa. All that is really necessary (and
even this is not specified anywhere) is that a new species take into
consideration other described (= validly named) species and differentiate
the new species from these as carefully as one can. That most of us would
try to include at least some of the alphanumeric combinations as well is
something else.

If describers of new species do a careful job when the type species is not
yet well enough described, the worst thing that SHOULD be able to happen
nomenclaturally is that ONE younger species NAME becomes a junior synonym if
the species proves to be identical with the type species. This is not a
disaster, and it does not invalidate the hopefully good description of the
junior synonym, which will almost certainly shed more light on the species.

A recent article on Capitella sp. Y is clearly a very careful piece of work;
why the author did not simply line her species (spp.) up in a table and
compare them with other described species (with or also without formal
names) is difficult to understand. I also find it difficult to understand
why no illustrations were provided. All Capitella spp. do NOT look alike.
They differ in color in life - we obviously see SOME material alive, and if
observed, color in life should always be indicated; there are differences in
proportions, in methyl green staining*, in life history, etc. 
	*One should NOT stain more than c. 15-20 seconds - the idea is to
stain the surface of the animal, not the interior, and if a fresh solution
of stain is used and a pattern does not develop by then, one can give it a
few seconds more, but not 15-20 minutes!  

If features of species are put into tables, it becomes much easier to see
differences and similarities, as well as to see which species stand out and
which ones are still in a grey zone. It also makes it a lot easier to spot
unique features - if any - and to add information without having to redo
everything - one just adds one or more features to the table.

I suggest that if one has good material of a species and is convinced that
it is new, they describe it as carefully and with as good illustrations as
possible, and give it a real name. If the author/s have done their homework,
the name will probably stand; if not, it will become a junior synonym, but
the species will still have a home and the world will not end!

Best wishes,


Dr. Mary E. Petersen
Scholar in Residence, Polychaeta
Darling Marine Center, University of Maine
193 Clark's Cove Road
Walpole, ME 04573-3307, USA

E-mail: mepetersen at maine.edu
Tel. DMC: +1-207-563-3146 x 222
Fax DMC: +1-207-563-3119

-----Original Message-----
From: annelida-bounces at oat.bio.indiana.edu
[mailto:annelida-bounces at oat.bio.indiana.edu] On Behalf Of Sergio Salazar
Sent: Wednesday, June 07, 2006 1:21 PM
To: annelida at magpie.bio.indiana.edu
Cc: Capitellidae at aol.com
Subject: [Annelida] Plea for Capitella capitata

Dear colleagues,

At least from 1974, we know there are several species under the name 
Capitella capitata. Over 30 yr after that, we still have been unable to 
clarify the taxonomic composition of our most famous pollution indicator. 
Despite its current importance in benthic ecology, and its potential 
relevance in invasive species biology, we continue to see publications 
dealing with sps, Roman numerals, alphabetic lettering, or city names after 
the genus name, often without any details on morphology.

A search in GoogleScholar results in over 2,000 hits for Capitella, and over

6,600 for Nereis, in comparison with about 400 for Syllis. However, the 
latter two have much less taxonomic problems, and the previously regarded 
different populations have been separated as distinct species by morphology,

ecology, reproductive biology, or a combination of them.

Therefore, at the same time that I apologize for asking our 
Capitella-colleagues to redirect their research, I encourage them to 
concentrate efforts in two main activities. First, follow Linda Warren who 
moved from capitellid ecology to taxonomy, and solve the taxonomic confusion

by designating and depositing a neotype for C. capitata, revising and 
reinstating the available names, and introducing new ones whenever needed. 
Second, make a team effort to produce a revision on Capitella's ecology, 
trying to organize the information by geographic region, reproductive 
pattern, or any other means such that any future comparison would be richer 
and sounder. The end products of these two efforts will be much appreciated 
and useful, and will be welcome in specialized journals such as Zootaxa and 
the Annual Review series.

Sure, our current situation might be far from optimal, and this deserves 
more enthusiasm. Let's try to find graduate students to do this, or let's 
hope our colleagues already dealing with the group, manage to find some time

for these actions.

Un abrazo,

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