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    Do you Confer? What Cf. Means and How It’s Used

    We’d like to welcome Jeremy Maneyapanda to the GBD team with his first article on aquaria related nomenclature. For some background on Mr. Maneyapanda, he has BS in Biological Sciences in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics from Cornell University. This background and his love of marine life found him deeply enveloped in the marine hobby in […]

    We’d like to welcome Jeremy Maneyapanda to the GBD team with his first article on aquaria related nomenclature. For some background on Mr. Maneyapanda, he has BS in Biological Sciences in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics from Cornell University. This background and his love of marine life found him deeply enveloped in the marine hobby in 1991 and working at a LFS in Buffalo, NY soon after.

    Today he finds his work removed from aquariums, but devoted to animals as he manages a large exotic biological facility working with marsupials. When not at work or writing for GBD, Jeremy is often in front of his 240g Reef Tank that has a habit of housing numerous rare and exotic fish species. Keep an eye out for more of Jeremy’s insightful articles in the near future.


    If you’ve spent any measurable amount of time in this “hobby” you’ve certainly wandered upon the perplexing dilemma of nomenclature. Particularly in the realm of taxonomic nomenclature vs. common nomenclature. Rather than be a “which side of the fence should I stand on?” issue, there is far more that can be learned, utilized, and applied by everyday hobbyists. Ultimately this will effect how we function (and talk) in our own little microcosm of this industry.

    The Pintail Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus cf. lanceolatus) is a striking fish that has yet to be properly identified.

    A big thanks to Kevin Kohen for the photo.

    Do you confer? It’s a somewhat frequently encountered term, which many simply glance over, but definitely should not. That is the term “cf”. While shopping online, particularly for fish, especially in certain genera of fish, it wouldn’t be uncommon to come across a taxonomic name in the format of “Genus cf. species”. All too often that “cf” is subconsciously discarded, and the fish is perceived to be “Genus species”. In systematics, there is occasionally an “aff” used also, but we, as aquarists don’t see this as much. So, what does this mean, and why does it matter to aquarists?

    The term “cf” stands for “confer”, and loosely interpreted, means “looks like”. When it is placed in between the “Genus” and “species”, it is implying “this fish looks like “Genus species”, but aside from that, it has not been “identified”. This may be for a number of reasons.  Perhaps because the collectors/wholesaler hasn’t bothered to ID it, or it has not been scientifically identified yet (whether by the collection region, meristics, gross appearance, other, or any combination of these). All things considered, of these two reasons, the former is not as likely, given most collectors and wholesalers would rather assign an ID to make a sale, rather than be accurate (in my humble opinion), whereas, the latter is certainly FAR more conceivable.

    So, back to the original question- how does this effect aquarists. Well, in most cases, it wont effect the core bottom line husbandry concerns. Two fish, so closely similar that there would be difficulty telling them apart will likely not have two different husbandry techniques. However, for rare fish aficionados, like myself, it can be of critical importance. Take a look at Surgeonfishes, Rabbitfishes and their Relatives. A Comprehensive Guide to Acanthuroidei, by Rudy Kuiter and Helmut Debelius. Around the Powder Blue Tangs (Acanthurus luecosternon), you will see some unusual fish, and an even more unusual and quizzical name (given current opinions).

    What appears to be a blatant hybrid of a Powder blue (Acanthurus luecosternon) and a Powder Brown (Acanthurus nigricans), is instead labeled as “Acanthurus cf. leucosternon”. At the time of publication, this uniquely colored fish was unknown to the scientific community, and while speculations could be made, it was determined to be an “unknown”. Since that time, I can only assume that it has been since “confirmed” to be a hybrid, as no scientific taxonomic name has been give to it. It, however, sheds light on the process of fish taxonomy. Of the current fish, which are still be labeled with Genus cf species (ie- Cirrhilabrus cf. lanceolatus), what will become of these fish? Will they ultimately become a new species? Or will they become a variant species? Or will they be known as a hybrid? Or will it always remain as a “looks like”? Only time will tell.

    Next time you see “cf” stop and think. The implications and use of this two letter abbreviation are not something to glance over.

    17 Comments

    1. January 21, 2010 at 10:29 AM | Permalink

      We're happy to see Jeremy writing for GBD! Great first article!

    2. Nicholas Sadaka
      January 21, 2010 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

      Welcome Jeremy and I agree…fantastic article. I am certainly one of the people that overlook the “cf” and now I probably never will again. Thanks for the pertinent information and I certainly look forward to more articles. Thanks!

    3. Ian
      January 21, 2010 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

      Great article Jeremy! Glad to see you aboard GBD, I look forward to future articles…

      That wrasse is insanely beautiful I might add…

    4. Matt Wandell
      January 21, 2010 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

      Nice write up Jeremy!

    5. Tim Morrissey
      January 21, 2010 at 3:16 PM | Permalink

      Hey nice write up! I never knew it meant confer, but I never overlooked it. I always thought it stood for Color Form… whoops.

    6. Mike
      January 21, 2010 at 5:18 PM | Permalink

      Helpful. Thanks!

    7. myerst22
      January 21, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Permalink

      Oh my Jeremy……. you are now published!!!!! Congrats man!!!

    8. kevinkohen
      January 21, 2010 at 5:28 PM | Permalink

      Very nice Jeremy.

    9. jmaneyapanda
      January 21, 2010 at 6:44 PM | Permalink

      Thanks to everyone for the props!! Of course, I made a bit of an error in the first one! D'oh!! As pointed out to me by one of my mentors, I referenced the “wrong” powder brown. The Acanthurus cf. leucosternon is generally believed to be an Indian Ocean hybrid currently, a mix bewteen Acanthurus leucosternon and Acanthurus nigricans, not Acanthurus japonicus, as I indicated. Oops!!!! I beg everyone's utter forgiveness, and promise to never do it again. At least, not until the next time!! 😉

      Thansk again to everyone!!

    10. Ian
      January 21, 2010 at 7:25 PM | Permalink

      ppfffttt… you blew it dude, no more articles for you!

    11. Ralph
      January 21, 2010 at 7:30 PM | Permalink

      nice!

      I'll accept your apology this time, since it's your only one! LOL!

    12. Raj_007
      January 21, 2010 at 9:16 PM | Permalink

      Well done, Jeremy. I look forward to more articles.

      By the way, I found a second error, although it's an incorrect usage of a word.. 😉

    13. Austin
      January 22, 2010 at 9:44 AM | Permalink

      Great to have you on GBD Jeremy, very nice article.

    14. Mike Clifford
      January 22, 2010 at 10:05 AM | Permalink

      Jeremy, Great article! Welcome to the Team! Now I've got to get my act together and put together the articles I've promised Eric 🙂

    15. Austin
      January 22, 2010 at 3:44 PM | Permalink

      Great to have you on GBD Jeremy, very nice article.

    16. Mike Clifford
      January 22, 2010 at 4:05 PM | Permalink

      Jeremy, Great article! Welcome to the Team! Now I’ve got to get my act together and put together the articles I’ve promised Eric 🙂

    17. January 20, 2011 at 12:57 PM | Permalink

      Great article, Jeremy. I link to this often when people ask me what “cf” means.

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