Friday, September 26, 2014

Corals in Maine

Maine is perhaps the only state that's famous for a marine invertebrate.  We even celebrate those lobsters on our license plates.  But recently, Maine has been getting attention for a completely different type of marine invertebrate: our spectacular corals (and here).  If you think of corals only as colonial creatures that make reefs in tropical regions, this news may be surprising.  But several diverse taxa within the phylum Cnidaria are informally referred to as corals.  And some of them live in great abundance in Maine's deep waters.  These include stony corals in the order Scleractinia, which also includes the tropical reef builders.  In addition, there are Alcyonaceans (soft corals and sea fans), and Pennatulaceans (sea pens), with many families represented within each of these orders.  Definitely check out the slide show here; there are gorgeous sea anemones in addition to the abundant gorgonians, which are the stars of the show, comprising the "coral gardens."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Phialella zappai

I told a story in class yesterday about a jellyfish named to honor Frank Zappa.  I think I first heard this story in graduate school in the late 1980s, and it was told to me as a funny little anecdote about the power of invertebrate systematics to bring together a talented musician and an admiring fan, who just happened to be a jellyfish expert.  I had forgotten the name of the genus, but now the entire rich tale has a life on the internet. And there are many examples of other species named after famous (and infamous) folk.  If you are thinking of developing your own expertise in a particular taxon and leveraging your power in giving names to new species you discover as a way to meeting up with your favorite celebrity, you will have to get familiar not only with your organism, but also with rules of taxonomic nomenclature.  What new species, or higher-level taxon (genus, family, order, etc) would you like to be able to name, and what would you name it?