species/subspecies query

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Wed Nov 15 10:03:52 CST 2000

Of course, Mark makes this question much easier by assuming that
compatibility tests have been done. For virtually all insects other than
butterflies, subspecies are commonly "defined" as populations which are
allopatric and have some distinguishing feature but have similar genitalia
(I'm personally most familiar with bees, and this is very much the case
there). The *implication* is that similar genitalia means reproductive
compatibility. To a PSC adherent, most insect subspecies would be called
species. As for butterflies, there seems to be no clear rule - when one
looks at skippers and fritillaries, for example, it seems that the only
criterion is allopatry (i.e., if you were to remove the label data,
absolutely no one would be able to place most specimens into the proper
subspecies). But if one looks at, say, the book "Swallowtails of the
Americas", they lump all sorts of things into single species, even when
there is tremendous variation in the male genitalia. Seems to run to both
extremes and everywhere in between.
This is an issue that obviously depends a lot on subjective criteria, and
thus will never have a clear answer. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but it also
defies being pigeonholed.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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