The naming of plants and animals was such an important
task that the biblical GOD assigned it as a first priority to Adam. How
do the livestock you want to keep end up with their various
appellations, and who cares anyway?
Well, imagine being around a few hundred years back...
being an inquisitive individual, of a very curious species you find
yourself wondering about the living "forms" around you. What
the dickens are they? Well, actually "they" are whatever you
The only difficulty with this scheme, and it's a big
one, lies in the fact that other people have different names for the
same apparent organisms. Is this a problem? Big time if you're
trying to communicate with other folks. Think if you had to describe an
"elephant" to someone in writing without a picture; "a
big gray something with a long nose and four feet?" Kind of long,
wordy and vague... and this is assuming your audience understands
Well, this is a postcard version of the cause and real
history of common and scientific naming.
Roots of Our Mal-Content:
The ancient Greeks and Romans set the classification
precedent by providing the starting point and language, descriptively
naming the plants and animals around them. Much of their naming
survived and proved useful through the scientifically slow and dark
Enlightened interest in the living world and economic
surplus during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
spurred exploration and collections; and an awareness of other
nation's non-agreeing names for living things.
What to do? Well, come on, what would you do? Could you get everyone to agree to using one
language? What would it be, French, German, English...? What a
Thank Goodness for Karl von
Skip ahead to the 1700's and we find a revolution in
the standardization of biological labeling. Credit goes to Carolus
Linnaeus for coming up with an internationally acceptable set of naming
rules. Looking back these seem and are obvious, simple and
straightforward. The Highlights:
1) Lingua Latina: First of all
Linnaeus chose the most PC (Politically Correct) language- Latin.
Everyone could agree on it because most scientific folks spoke and
wrote Latin already. Though it provided root words for many European
dialects, Latin was a "dead" vernacular and therefore favored
no particular nation. What's more, many of the existing names were
Latin derived. We have continued and expanded (out of necessity) on
this use with latinized Greek and modern language
"borrowings" as more than a million species have been
2) Binomial Nomenclature:
Up to Linnaeus' time scientific naming was a lot like
our example of an elephant; a long string of
descriptive words. Karl von Linne (his original name) had a better
idea; to apply a consistent two-word naming. In our species for
example, a genus (Homo) for the first, and a species
(sapiens) for the second.
There are a whole bunch of rules and even International
Commissions to regulate who came first in their descriptions, what
names can be used, and whether a species description is adequate. A few
examples of these enforced guidelines: Genera, plural for genus (Greek
for "kind") always have their first letter capitalized.
Species and genera are italicized or underlined...
Priority of Names:
The rules of scientific naming state that who ever
accurately and adequately describes and acceptably publishes a species
description first, their naming takes precedence. Here's how this
You're taking a longing look at some fishes at your
livestock suppliers and lo & behold, "what's that?" A
new species? "Gosh, it's so ugly, maybe I'll name it in
honor of my boss." Not so fast, bucko. In actual practice a
representative collection over a geographic range is made, including a
representation of sizes, sexes, variations in color, structure,
genetics, biochemistry... and an extensive review of collections and
all pertinent literature. This may be called for to determine if
Uglissimus bossus is new to Science. Biological naming is a
lot of work.
Now, you tell me; in retrospect doesn't biological
classification and naming make a lot of sense? It is the easiest manner
to instantly communicate the "what" that we're referring
to, to any person through space and time.
Centropyge deborae 8/15/16
It has been a while since I contacted wwm, but I have just recently
discovered, after a friend sent me a link, that the above-mentioned fish
was named at WSI, although I have no animosity towards the Smith's, I am
a little upset that I personally collected this fish in 1994, before WSI
set up in Fiji, and although I thought it was a different fish from the
other Centropyges, I was told it may be a variant phase of the coral
beauty, it is quite sad that they claim to have discovered it.
<I know of this fish, the Smith's collectors first gathering this new
species... It is "the rule" that such namings are "date regulated"; that
is, the first "acceptable", "scientific" description and publication
stands as the original. I would state that there are VERY likely other
Centropyge in mesophotic depths (one can guess more likely areas by a
cursive study of
zoogeography), and that for sure there are other Labrid and Anthiine
species found about the Great Sea Reef. Consider getting on out, making
collections and sending same to folks, institutions that do such
Cheers, Bob Fenner>
I look forward to hear from you
*Waterlife Exporters (Fiji) Limited*
Re: Centropyge deborae 8/16/16
I just got this copied to me from Bob.
I know how frustrating it must be to think you might have discovered
something only to find out later that someone else has claimed it.
As Bob points out, it is not about who saw it first but who takes the
initiative to go through the long and tedious process of getting it
scientifically documented. This process usually takes about two years
and many specimens must be supplied to the scientist to insure it is not
just a one off or variant. Only after the DNA is conclusive matching it
against other closely related species and several samples are provided
to prove separate identity can the "new" specimen be named.
In this case there was another famous scientist who also "discovered"
this same fish before 1994 when he was a professor at USP. I am talking
about Dr. Bruce Carlson and he actually has a video of a pair C. deborae
mating which also appears on my web site. Bruce is a good friend of mine
and we laugh about how he thought it was different but brushed it off as
a variant and instead concentrated on another fish from the same reef
which was also a new discovery that later became classified as the
Cirrhilabrus marjorie (named after his wife Marj) which was found on the
same reef. We often joke about how we both have fish named after our
wives found in only one place on earth so far as we know. Up till now
this fish has only been associated with Bligh water area so I am curious
if your sighting was in Suva bay.
Just recently I thought I had another new discovery only to find out I
was looking at a Cirrhilabrus nahackyi and then there is the other angel
on my web site that still have not been confirmed as a new specie and
some scientist believe it to be a variant and some say otherwise. Take a
look at this as I compare it to the C. heraldi for size and swim pattern
side by side.
All the best,
<Ahh; thank you for your complete, civil response Walt. Much
Oh! And see you and Deb soon here in San Diego at the upcoming MACNA do.
Re: Centropyge Deborae /Peter
How are you, been a while, I hope you are well, truth be told, Walt is a
good man, (that is why he is Cc'd as well), and his explanation is fair,
yes I do understand in principal, the reasoning, but* I must admit I
find it wrong in principal, that a fish is named to anyone other than
the diver who collected it, at the very least, and Ideally to the first
is not the norm!!.*
<Mmm; "dem are da rules"; and makes sense that a "science type" does the
naming; as they are responsible for adequately describing. The times
I've been involved in such... from collecting, supplying specimens on
"namer" has sought out my input for the name itself.>
I do have a photo somewhere, but I really cannot say much beyond that,
as I am not a scientist, or have the money or facility to do such
things, maybe if it was in Charles Darwin's time I could have got away
with it, lol.
And no Walt it was not in Suva.
Thanks, and regards
Waterlife Exporters (Fiji) Limited
<Thank you Peter. Hope to see you about. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Centropyge Deborae /Walt
<Hey Walt, BobF kibitzing here>
Thanks for the nice words.
Not to beat a dead horse but I must point out one simple fact …. Without
documented proof of discovery there is no such thing as the one who saw
it first. You must realize that even though I believe you to be an
honest person there are many who are not. The fact remains that Dr.
Bruce Carlson actually saw it first and has documented it on video but
he brushed it off as a variant and he is an expert. This actually
happens a lot and that is why the proof of finding must be documented so
meticulously with spine and scale count (the old way) and in recent
years with conclusive DNA testing against other closely related species.
I also had to prove that there were no Centropyge nox anywhere in our
waters which it so closely resembled. Then multiple specimens needed to
be supplied to prove it was not just a one off.
All of this work and effort is supplied by the applicant for
classification and the time and effort is very consuming. Finally, when
the scientific authority has conclusive proof that it is a different
specie they are able to name the fish. The original name picked for this
fish was Centropyge fijiensis but they asked me if I would prefer
another name and I chose to honor my wife Deborah. Also the fact is that
several divers were involved in the collection but they had no idea it
was a different specie. I recognized this possibility and the fish
“belonged” to me since they were paid by my company so I had the right
to follow through with the expensive and time consuming exercise of
getting it named.
On another note, if you ever find another fish you believe to be
different I will be happy to show you the ropes that I followed and
perhaps there is a savonei out there somewhere. :)
<I'm very sure there is/are. I saw a few undescribed species while up in
Also, did you spot this in Bligh or up north? It was first sighted by
Bruce in Bligh near Namana but we first collected it North West of Raki
Raki but we now collect them in Bligh off of Nabawalau. They are very
plentiful up there where we collect more than 100 in a day but we do not
do this too often because, to be frank, they do not sell very well
because the color is not that interesting to the aquarist. We only
collect them about 3 – 4 times a year and that is all the market will
Also please look at my web site and you will see Bruce’s video of a pair
of C. deborae mating but what I really want you to see is the other
“different” angel I have there. We have found two of these fish several
years ago and the scientist is waiting for more specimens but I have not
been able to find any more. Dr. Richard Pyle and Jack Randal say variant
but Bruce is on the fence and Dr. Gerald Allen is also not sure. I have
heard there were other collectors in Suva (now long gone) that also
claim to have seen many of these but there is no proof other than I did
see it on live aquaria web site and it did not come from me since I only
sent mine to the scientific authority that I worked with before. It
could be a variant of C. heraldi (as some suggest) but I doubt it since
I have seen three specimens exactly the same and the size and swim
pattern is very different than Centropyge and more like Genicanthus.
Please let me know if you have seen anything like this in your waters.
There are many variants of heraldi, bicolor, lemon peel mix with black
tails or black splotches but this is very different and precisely marked
on each specimen I have come across which is not typical of variants.
See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJIPY4t4IYo
Deborae pair here:
Take care Peter, right now I am in LA getting ready for MACNA.
All the best,
<Thanks Walt. See you soon. BobF>