Acropora torresiana

Author: Andrew Baird

Species: Acropora torresiana Veron 2000

One of the many difficulties in sorting coral taxonomy is the often contradictory information attached to the type material. For example, Acropora torresiana was officially named by Charlie Veron in 2000 with the type location given as the “Torres Strait”. Also complicating the issue is the fact that in the first description of this species as Acropora sp-1 Veron & Wallace 1984, list the type locality as “Little Mary Reef, Swain Reefs, Great Barrier Reef, Australia”. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s list of reef suggests that there is no reef called Little Mary in the Marine Park. Google earth suggests that there is a Little Mary Reef in Torres Strait so it would appear that this is the type locality. A mystery solved by Project Phoenix.

Another difficulty in sorting out coral taxonomy is that many of the synonyms appear to be incorrect. For example, A. torresiana Veron 2000 was synonymized with A. samoensis (Brook 1891) by Wallace et al 2012. A comparison of the types suggests that the morphology of these two species are distinct (Figure 1). Specifically, the gross morphologies are different, the branches are much thicker in A. samoensis and the shape of the radial corallites are also distinct (labellate vs tubular). Based on this evidence it would appear that Veron (2000) was correct to describe this as a new species. The next step, which is one of Project Phoenix’s aims, is to collect good topotypes of all the nominal species including this A. torresiana so we can compare them with morphological and molecular techniques and hopefully resolve the issue of synonym once and for all.

[Figure 1: Comparison between Acropora torresiana and A. samoensis.
a-c, Acropora torresiana Veron 2000 Holotype G55780; d-f, A. samoensis (Brook 1891) Lectotype NHM 1875.10.2.8]

Literature cited

Veron JEN, Wallace CC (1984) Scleractinia of Eastern Australia – Part V. Family Acroporidae. Australian Institute of Marine Science Monograph Series 6: 1–485

Veron JEN (2000) Corals of the World. Townsville, Australia: Australian Institute of Marine Science. 1382 p

Wallace CC, Done B, Muir PR (2012) Revision and catalogue of worldwide staghorn corals Acropora and Isopora (Scleractinia: Acroporidae) in the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Mem Qld Mus Nature 57: 1–255

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