TOWARDS A NEW SYNTHESIS OF EVOLUTIONARY RELATIONSHIPS AND CLASSIFICATION OF SCLERACTINIA
Journal of Paleontology
The focus of this paper is to provide an overview of historical and modern accounts of scleractinian evolutionary relationships and classification. Scleractinian evolutionary relationships proposed in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries were based mainly on skeletal data. More in-depth observations of the coral skeleton showed that the gross-morphology could be highly confusing. Profound differences in microstructural and microarchitectural characters of e.g., Mesozoic
... , pachythecaliine, stylophylline, stylinine, and rhipidogyrine corals compared with nominotypic representatives of higher-rank units in which they were classified suggest their separate (?subordinal) taxonomic status. Recent application of molecular techniques resulted in hypotheses of evolutionary relationships that differed from traditional ones. The emergence of new and promising research methods such as highresolution morphometrics, analysis of biochemical skeletal data, and refined microstructural observations may still increase resolution of the "skeletal" approach. Achieving a more reliable and comprehensive scheme of evolutionary relationships and classification framework for the Scleractinia will require close cooperation between coral biologists, ecologists, geologists, geochemists, and paleontologists. → FIGURE 1-Main 20th Century classifications of Scleractinia. 1, Vaughan and Wells (1943); 2, Wells (1956); 3, Alloiteau (1952); 4, Chevalier and Beauvais (1987). Arrows indicate changes in taxonomic position of some of taxa discussed in the text. Further changes in systematics affected by microstructural observations of asterisked taxa explained in section: Modifications in scleractinian systematics. . . .