Coral Finder 2021 (CF2021) is a significant milestone for all those interested in coral identification. For the first time since the molecular revolution threw coral taxonomy into a state of chaos, there is now a guide that summarises all the changes at the family and genus level in a single publication. Russell Kelley, author of three previous editions of the Indo-Pacific Coral Finder, has produced a new, practical synthesis of the 87 most common Indo-Pacific genera of stony corals.
The significance of the changes in coral taxonomy following on from the use of molecular tools is difficult to underestimate. Even in some of the most studied reef regions, such as the Great Barrier Reef, it is difficult to put an accurate name on almost any colony in the field. Indeed, all taxonomic revisions that precede the molecular revolution, including the two most significant identification guides of the era, Veron’s Corals of the World and Wallace’s Staghorn Corals of the World are now redundant.
The good news is that most of the major changes at the family and generic level are likely complete, although there are bound to be some surprises. In contrast, it will be many years before there is a stable taxonomy at the species level. So, for now, identifying corals to genus is the best that anyone not prepared to devote a life-time to coral taxonomy can hope for.
CF2021 allows for anyone interested in corals to do just this. Like previous editions, CF2021 allows the user to search for corals by name, shape, texture or habitat making it very user-friendly. CF2021 is relatively free of jargon meaning you do not need a background in coral taxonomy to use the guide. CF2021 also includes a bibliography that lists the key literature responsible for the recent taxonomic changes.
This is a monumental achievement for which the coral reef community should be grateful.