species reality (was species/subspecies query)

John Shuey jshuey at TNC.ORG
Thu Nov 16 10:51:07 CST 2000


> >>> From: Curtis Clark:
> IMO there are only two legitimate positions:
> 1) Species are not actual units of nature
> 2) Species are units of nature that originate through a process or processes
> that we call speciation<<<
> 3) Species are units of nature that originate through speciation, but like
> so many aspects of nature there is some statistical slop about them.  I've
> never heard an official name given to my preferred species definition, and I
> call it the "Genetic Species Concept", that a species is an evolutionary
> unit.  As such, there is genetic cohesiveness at a given time, but that
> *doesn't* mean genetic homogeneity, nor does it mean genetic stasis over
> evolutionary time.

As a conservation end-user of taxonomy - I prefer option three.  Conservation is
about protecting evolutionary potential.  Too many species concepts are biased
toward obscuring evolutionary patterns within species (e.g. lumping clinal
entities into a single unit, setting arbitrary "standards", genetic or
morphologic, for taxonomic recognition, etc...).  Often hidden in our attempt to
apply the "static concepts of names" to dynamic entities, is the evolutionary
essence which many folks (like me) are trying to protect.

So, from my perspective, really useful work doesn't hide these patterns within a
chosen taxonomic concept - but rather applies the "taxonomic concepts" while
still documenting and acknowledging the "statistical slop" that Robin notes.

For a great example, see:

John Burns 1984.  Evolutionary differentiation: differentiating gold-banded
skippers - Autochton cellus and more (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae)  Smithsonian
Contribution Contributions to Zoology 405:1-38.

John Shuey
Director of Conservation Science
Indiana Office of The Nature Conservancy

phone:  317-923-7547
fax:  317-923-7582
email:  Jshuey at tnc.org

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