The naming process

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Posted by Dr. Bill on October 11, 2005 at 11:09:19:

In Reply to: Nudibranch Dave's Dendrodoris finally named! posted by Roger on September 18, 2005 at 15:04:39:

The naming of any "new" species is a tedious (IMHO) process whereby the species is described in detail for identification purposes, the taxonomy of the group in which it is placed is reviewed, and any potential antecedents are identified and differentiated. Of course occasionally these "new" species are later found to have been previously described by earlier researchers and are no longer considered valid.

Catalina had a few undescribed species when I first started diving it in the late 60's. The pink Cucumaria sea cucumber was one of them, the orange zoanthids common at places like Ship Rock and Eagle Reef another. I'm pretty sure the first was described and named (C. salmonacea if my faulty memory is correct) but I don't believe the second has. Of course there are still others to be identified and described.

When I was a Harvard undergrad in a course on invertebrate paleontology taught by Bernie Kummel and Steven Jay Gould, I had a chance to name a new species. It was a fossil helicoplacoid (a primitive echinoderm) that appeared to be of the genus Helicoplacus. I discovered the specimen while looking for a fossil to use in my course term project and recognized it as something unique. Steven Jay Gould suggested that I might not be the right person to undertake the scientific description, and that project went to the leading expert at the time, J. Wyatt Durham at UC Berkeley.

So much for my 15 minutes of fame, but of course it left me more time to enjoy the party life at my alma mater that year!

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