Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 July 2015
Of all the morphologic characters used in favositid taxonomy, corallite size has most frequently been given more weight than others because of its relative ease of measurement and because it has been generally believed to be less variable. This study evaluates the reliability of corallite size as a criterion by a statistical treatment of several populations of favositids in the Upper Silurian West Point Reef Complex in Gaspé, Québec. Calculation of corallite cross-sectional area was made feasible by computer-based image analysis which provides a quick and accurate measure of size. The present study shows that the mean of the largest 10 percent corallite areas in mature parts of colonies with a minimum sample size of 100 corallites per cross section is the best approximation available of mean adult corallite size.
It is suggested that intraspecific variability of corallite size is often too large for this character to be used in practice, probably due to phenotypic plasticity. The same may be true of most other morphologic characters. In some cases, however, one or two characters remain invariate within a species and can be used diagnostically. The same characters may be extremely variable in other species.