Exactly what is a species?

Jerry Bricker lcjbrick at ANTELOPE.WCC.EDU
Tue Jul 9 20:33:37 CDT 1996

You have hit upon the dirty little secret of the taxonomy/systematics
community.  None of us can adequately produce a single species concept
that fits all organisms.  As a result, most workers worry about their
particular group of study and try to disregard the "big picture."  (I
don't know how many times I've discussed this question with others in the
field.  It has made for some interesting exchanges but never seems to
come to any real resolution.)

I tend to take the long view.  Species in the natural setting clearly
"know" what they are and seek to produce fit offspring.  The challenge is
trying to decifer what traits are favorable for mate selection and
quantify those traits in the form of a species description.  After all,
does the Blue Columbine (or any other organism) really "care" whether we
humans recognize 2 varieties, 2 ecotypes, or 2 species?  I think not; but
it might not hurt to ask!

Jerry Bricker

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