Hello fellow reefers!
I was trolling the zoanthids section of this forum (as usual) and ran across a very interesting topic, asking what does a zoa name really mean (it was interesting because the reefer is a researcher interested in genetics and wanted to see if all zoas were lineaged back to one name)? To save him the trouble I wrote a brief explanation... That got a bit longer with a 1st edit.. and then longer with a 2nd... and then a 3rd... and then turned into "I see this question pop up so many times" and remembered I haven't contributed much to the zoa community so yolo and WHA-BAM! Another blog post story time thingy again... Hooray for coral education!!! So, for those who have always asked and wondered "where do names come from and etc" this is my take and understanding on it after being in the game for the couple of years I've been collecting corals. I hope that it helps.
For most reefers, the names are just references for people to know what kind of zoa it is and what it looks like. Names are used so people will know exactly what the morph will look like, mostly for collecting purposes. For example, what if I said "I've been looking for this specific orange zoa for yeaaaaars, do you happen to have it?" and had no photo to show you. If there were no names, imagine how much work it would take to try to play detective and describe the zoa and google through hundreds of photos with the search "orange zoa." Ugh! No way Jose. But if I said Utter Chaos, you would automatically know what they look like. And that is the reason why the "name game" exists. For reefers who are not avid collectors, then the name game does not matter as much to them since they are not in the act of collecting. They only buy what they like whether online or in person (and they tend to have actual reef displays and not tanks that look like frag tanks LOL. You collectors know you're guilty of frag-tank-display-itis!!!). I usually get the request from reefers like this asking for zoas of certain colors, and don't care so much about the name since they're are looking for a color for their reef and not a specific morph. However, if they ever want to find an exact morph of a zoa without the name that's associated with it... gg.
Now, we'll go over about why the names are kept on certain pieces, even if it's a wild piece. If a wild colony of zoa that has the same look as an already named morph came in again, it should also keep the same name. Candy Apple Reds are a good example. They are a "higher end" morph that many collectors grow and frag, but they also have come into the hobby as wild pieces within the last couple of years. Just because it's a new colony, doesn't mean it needs a new name. That would defeat the purpose of the naming game, which is to use the name as a reference for the morph. Imagine having to make a new name for a morph that looked the same every time just because "lineage isn't the same." We'd have 1000+ different names for Radioactive Dragon Eyes and Whammin Watermelons!
The zoa of 1000+ names!!!... Or not.
However, when a reefer's or vendor's name is placed in front of the name it DOES imply lineage and is NOT used as a name reference. This is something that too many people get confused about, and uneducated sellers and vendors end up making a mistake on (and they get flamed :flame. One common and very expensive mistake I can think of at the top of my head is the JF Bloodshots. JF implies that it's the same morph that grew from the original piece that Jason Fox (JF) collected and sold to hobbyist. Meaning that it can be traced back to JF himself. It can either be the first colony he found or even the second (if they look exactly the same). But it NEEDS to have been purchased from JF, since the JF name implies that it came from him. And that's all that JF part of the name means. Now say you go to your LFS and find similar looking pieces come in from the wild. If you purchase them it is NOT okay to label them as "JF Bloodshots" because then it's implied that the piece came from JF when it actually came from another source. However, it is alright though to use the name "Bloodshot" if the morph looks exactly the same and lacks the JF title (but to be honest, I have yet to see anyone find a morph that looks exactly like them). So let's pretend that there was such thing as LC Candy Apple Reds (el oh el, we'd get soooo flamed :flame. Unless you purchased the Candy Apple Reds from LC, you cannot call them LC Candy Apple Reds. If you do get a colony of zoas that look just like Candy Apple Reds, then it's cool and acceptable to call them "Candy Apple Reds," for reasons explained in the second paragraph.
Now an interesting area of the name game that people always ask is... well... how a zoa gets a name that actually sticks! There are actually three requirements to this, all of which go hand in hand. They are a) if the morph is new b) specialty and c) popularity. The first requirement (a) is fairly straightforward. If it's an entirely new morph that no one's ever seen, then already it's a "new morph" and can have a new name so people can recognize it when referenced. Now part (b) follows (a), but addresses that it needs to be special. If it's not special, then why bother to even try to look for it in someone else's tank? You could just as easily find what appealed to you say for example... about one pink zoa with another pink zoa. The differences may be subtle, but that wouldn't matter to you. And you'r thinking hey, pink zoas come in all the time... so what's special about them to give them a name? Unless there's some crazy pattern or extra coloration that makes it special enough to be desirable and sought after, then it would stay mostly unnamed. You'd buy it simply because you liked the way it looked. But other than that, you wouldn't really miss it too much if you lost it and would be just as happy with another pink morph.
Being Special: It's just a pink zoa, I bought it cuz I like pink. What's so special about it that I'd die to find the exact same looking pink ones again?
Because oh look, yay!!! Pink zoas! They're not exact, but they'll do the job. I'm still just as happy with these.
And the third part, popularity (c), is important because if the zoa isn't popular then no one would be searching for it, which means the name would never stick! If there was a slightly different pink morph that you named as "pink zoa" for your own reference and no one else really sought after your specific pink morph, then it's most likely that the name won't stick and it will be forgotten. Something that some people might think factors into naming is rarity, but whammin watermelons and radioactive dragon eyes already disprove that. But they are popular as proof in the "ID my Zoa" section of almost every zoa community ever lol.
On the other hand... Oh God. What is that sexy of a beastly zoa?!?!?! I MUST HAVE IT!!! That's what you and hundreds of reefers say about this morph, making it popular.
There is another area that isn't exactly so much as to why, when, and how are names used, but it is a part of the name game that brings confusion, and that's renaming a morph. The two reasons why this happens is 1: the seller did not know that the morph had a common name that collectors were accustomed to already and 2: hype. The first case is very common, as there are many people who are new to collecting zoas and don't know if a common name was already established. So thinking it's a new morph, they put a new name on the morph and claim it as their own. Most of the time the collector will properly address the morph with its common name after being flamed and called a noob (usually by other noobs who have also been flamed in the past. Wow so much flaming in this hobby!!! Extra, extra, extra flames!!!! :flame::flame::flame. The second part, hype, is made when a vendor wishes to generate more buzz over a morph, usually because the name originally given to it wasn't very exciting. I'm not going to go over examples of this since it's not exactly cool for one vendor to be using other specific vendors for "hype" examples, but I'm pretty sure a good amount of you know example of this already (please keep examples to yourself and not in this thread).
Hopefully this helps you understand the name game better!
Zoas are not mine and were taken off google images of. Pretty please don't sue me for copyright infringement.