Gary C. Williams
University of California, Berkeley (1972); M.A., San Francisco State University
(1975); Ph.D., University of Cape Town (1987). Curator of Coelenterates,
South African Museum (1983-89). Chairman, Department of Marine Biology,
South African Museum (1987-89). Scientific Editor, Sagittarius, Natural
History Magazine of the South African Museum (1986-89). Research Associate,
California Academy of Sciences (1987-90). Post-Doctoral Fellow (1990-91).
Assistant Curator (1991-94). Associate Curator (1994- ). Chairman, Department
of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology (1995-98). Fellow: Linnean Society
of London; California Academy of Sciences. Member: American Association
for the Advancement of Science; Linnean Society of London.
A broad interest in natural history developed during childhood, in a
relatively uncrowded San Francisco Bay Area - before the enormous influx
of human population that extinguished much of the open space and altered
the regional biodiversity forever. An early interest in marine life was
influenced by two enthusiastic marine biologists - Dr. Gordon Chan (College
of Marin Biology Instructor) and Dusty Chivers (Senior Curatorial Assistant
in the Academy's Department of Invertebrate Zoology).
Octocorallian coelenterates include some of the most beautiful and morphologically
diverse animals in the world's oceans - these are the soft corals, sea
fans, and sea pens. They are a group of corals characterized by having
eight feathery tentacles surrounding the mouth of each polyp. Due to a
paucity of good characters and the great phenotypic variability of species,
octocoral systematics has traditionally been difficult and disputatious
- partly explaining why there is a corresponding paucity of octocoral
systematists! Other factors that make the field challenging include the
extreme difference in appearance between live and preserved material,
and the poor attention to detail in much of the older descriptive literature.
My current field research program is focused on coral reefs of the tropical
western Pacific, particularly Melanesia, the Philippines, and Micronesia.
Other research interests have taken me to the Galàpagos Islands,
Patagonia, Southern Africa, the Russian Far East, Antarctica, and the
subarctic. Scuba diving is essential to my field research since the highest
diversity of octocorals is between 5 and 35 meters in depth. Soft corals
are most abundant on shallow reef flats, while sea fans are more abundant
on slopes and walls. In addition, sea pens are encountered mostly at night
in sandy areas.
My research interests include the systematics of soft corals, gorgonians,
and pennatulaceans. I am currently exploring the phylogenetic relationships
of sea pens as part of an overall project, "A synthesis of knowledge
of sea pens of world seas." This large long-term project includes
"Index Pennatulacea," a comprehensive bibliography and indexes
of the sea pens of the world from 1469 to 1999, with a synopsis of the
history of research regarding the Octocorallia.
Williams, G.C. 1995. Living genera of sea pens (Coelenterata: Octocorallia:
Pennatulacea): illustrated key and synopses. Zoological Journal of the
Linnean Society 113: 93-140.
___________. 1995. The enigmatic sea pen genus Gyrophyllum -
a phylogenetic reassessment and description of G. sibogae from
Tasmanian waters (Coelenterata: Octocorallia). Proceedings of the California
Academy of Sciences 48 (15): 315-328.
___________. 1995. Revision of the pennatulacean genus Sarcoptilus
(Coelenterata: Octocorallia), with descriptions of three new species from
southern Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum 28(1): 13-32.
T.M. Gosliner, D.W. Behrens, G. C. Williams. 1996. Coral reef animals
of the Indo-Pacific - animal life from Africa to Hawai'i exclusive of
the invertebrates. Monterey: Sea Challengers, 314 pp.
Williams, G.C. 1997. Preliminary assessment of the phylogenetics of
pennatulacean octocorals, with a reevaluation of Ediacaran frond-like
fossils, and a synthesis of the history of evolutionary thought regarding
the sea pens. Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of Coelenterate
-----------------. 1997. A new genus and species of nephtheid soft coral
(Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) from the western Pacific Ocean, and a discussion
of convergence with several deep-sea benthic organisms. Proceedings of
the California Academy of Sciences 49(12): 423-437.
-----------------. 1999. Index Pennatulacea - annotated bibliography
with indexes of the sea pens of the world 1469-1999 (Coelenterata: Octocorallia).
Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 51 (2): 19-102.
Williams, G. C and P. Alderslade. 1999. A revision of the western Pacific
soft coral genus Minabea (Octocorallia: Alcyoniidae), with descriptions
of a related new genus and species from the Indo-Pacific. Proceedings
of the California Academy of Sciences 51 (6).
Williams, G.C. 1999. A new genus and species of stoloniferous octocoral
(Anthozoa: Clavulariidae) from the Pacific coast of North America. Zoologische