Resolutions from Xth Workshop on Atlanto-Mediterranean Sponges

This is an email communication from Eduardo Hajdu to the members of the Porifera mailing list, dated 8th May 1995, slightly edited by Bernard Picton.

This message is meant to spread some of the resolutions arrived at in Brussels between the 25th and 30th of April, 1995.

The Workshop was entitled 'Xth Workshop on Atlanto-Mediterranean Sponge Taxonomy - Biodiversity Databases and Identification Systems'. Delegates attending the meeting were, alphabetically:

Barthel, Bouland, Boury-Esnault, Braekman, Brugman, Calcinai, Conruyt, Corriero, Daloze, Danon, Desqueyroux-Faundez, De Weerdt, Diaz, Domingo i Gou, Drugmand, Govare, Hajdu, Hooper, Imsiecke, Kelly-Borges, Lazo-Wasem, Le Renard, Lebbe, Levi, Leys, Maldonado, Morrow, Pansini, Picton, Pomponi, Pronzato, Reiswig, Richelle-Maurer, Rutzler, Sanders, Scalera-Liaci, Schalk, Smith, Sole-Cava, Uriz, Vacelet, Valentine, Van de Velde, Van de Vyver, Van Soest, Willenz, Wulff and Zea.
In total, 48.

As partly reflected in the title of the workshop, the core subject of the event was the establishment of cooperative efforts in the area of databases and identification systems. Efforts were classified into
  1. bibliographical database
  2. species database
  3. specimens database
  4. expert systems for identification
Some consensus was achieved relative to topics 1 and 2, viz. bibliography and species names.

It was decided that a central bibliographical database will be compiled in PAPYRUS format having Nicole Boury-Esnault's 6000 records database as a seed. Copies of the database will available from Nicole (it may be possible to have the database saved in other formats). The database will be periodically updated, and authors are encouraged to send information on their publications to Nicole to make her effort easier and the database more complete. These data will be transferred into the species database so that they can be linked to the species names cited.

The second topic concerns a database with the published species of sponges. Efforts will be coordinated by Bernard Picton. It was decided that the software Advanced Revelation is the best candidate for the task due to its high relational capabilities, and also because Bernard is most familiar with it. He will check on the price for a multiuser license to ARev and will be contacting the mailbase soon to deal with this information, and also to inform people on the preferred format for the submission of species lists.

The task of establishing a list of species of sponges known worldwide and getting this typed is of course huge. Accordingly, the globe has been fragmented and different spongers offered to take care of specific parts of the globe, as follows (alphabetically). Please note that there are gaps, and also that help may be very welcome even for the parts of the globe which are already under the responsibility of this or that sponger.

Antarctic spp. Hooper, Pansini
Australian spp. Hooper
Caribbean spp. Pomponi, Rutzler, Smith, Van Soest, Zea
Deep Sea spp. Reiswig
Freshwater spp. Manconi, Pronzato (they seek help!)
Japanese spp. Kelly-Borges, Valentine
Mediterranean spp. Boury-Esnault, Pansini, Uriz, Vacelet
North Atlantic spp. Picton, Van Soest
Oceania spp. Kelly-Borges
South African spp. Uriz
South American spp. Desqueyroux-Faundez, Hajdu, Sole-Cava

Minimum Information

The minimum information available in this listing will be:

1. Species name + author + date
Special care is needed in case the author published more than one article in the same year, because we want to be able to trace the species to its original publication.
2. References: original + all the others where the species was cited
This may be a huge task, and that's specifically why help will be mostly welcome for any of the geographical sections outlined above. It will be possible to simply cite numbers from the bibliographical database which should make things easier.
3. Geographical region
No detailed locality data is needed here. Keep it for the next database.
4. General topics
This is a field which needs some debate still. It has been suggested that information on the taxonomy of the species, e.g. family and order to which it belongs could be added here, as well as data on its ecology. This database is specifically concerned with published information, in which case, if any data is added on a species' ecology it should be published data.

The Sponge Species Directory

It is worth of note that the bibliographic database and the species database will be merged by Bernard Picton in such a way that each reference will get a unique voucher number. In this way, people involved with the assembly of the species database will be able to refer simply to the reference number, rather than type all the reference again.

General comments about the species directory.

It must be stressed that information contained should have been published, and references must be provided. Individual efforts must be sent electronically to Bernard Picton, after he has put forward the format in which he prefers to get data, in order to avoid the need of him typing data into the database. He is only supposed to coordinate efforts and administer the database. There is no time constraint guiding individual efforts relative to the species directory - "we will have to be opportunistic depending on the availability of expertise and enthusiasm for the project" (John Hooper's words). The idea is that this database may eventually be accessible through the Internet.

Other areas

Now we move into the areas where no, or very few resolutions were arrived at during the workshop.

Topic 3 concerns the establishment of a specimen database. Again, concern is centered on published material, at least in a first stage. These are the most useful specimens, and this restriction should make the task easier. Curators are, of course, those expected to get data on published material housed in their collections on some electronic medium which should make the assembly of a unique database possible in the future. Unfortunately, large collections as those in Amsterdam, London and Paris are still far from being catalogued electronically, so that there is a large way to go with this database. No consensus has been reached for a database including unpublished material. This may be useful for curatorial purposes but the dimension of the task makes it unlikely that any joint venture with a broad base of sponge collections will be reached in the not too distant future. Additional problems concern the fact that large collections remain unidentified and that unpublished identifications in collection jars may be in need of revision.

The fourth database concerns expert systems for identification. It was decided that plurality will be encouraged here since each approach (Delta, the Hyalonema CAT-tool, Linnaeus II, Spong-IA) focus on a different aspect of the problem, and may actually be complementary to each other. Details of the Por-Linnaeus project are now available at the ETI web site.

We (let's say, Bernard) are thinking about the possibility of developing a site on the World Wide Web (WWW). Suggestions are encouraged. Please contact B. Picton at If you are reading this then you have found the Porifera Web Site. (Bernard E. Picton)

Hope to see you all in the next workshop!

Dr. Eduardo Hajdu
Rua Senador Vergueiro 154/304
22230-001 Rio de Janeiro RJ Brazil
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