Real Species

Ron at Ron at
Fri Apr 23 13:19:27 CDT 2004

I am real.  From conception to death I remain an individual.  I pass
(evolve) through various stages - child, adolescent, old man.  Those phases
are not what or who I am,  they are the _effect_ of aging (evolution).  I
conclude then that as a real individual I am only real in the now
(regardless of the current phase). When I look at pictures (the record) of
myself as a baby, teen, an old man I am not seeing the real me - just past
(or future) stages _I_ pass through.

If there is no speciation process, only an evolutionary process, then that
biota which is real is only that which is now.  When we look at the fossil
record we are only seeing the pictures (record) of what present life (that
which is real) was in its evolutionary phases. When those phases were
current (now then) they were real then - but not now as they no longer exist
in that state (taxon).   When we look at the entire spectrum of biological
evolution from a global (spatial) and historical (temporal) perspective
(record) we are only seeing the _effect_ of evolution.  That which is real
is always and only _now_ and _local_.

What is wrong with the Biological Species Concept is that it should be
called the Biological Subspecies Concept because that entity is the only
"individual" group that is both now and local.  I read the Mayr paper and
find him right on the money.  When he gets to his points in 6-4 I am very
interested in what is to come.  It hits the nail on the head.  But even he
doesn't realize the significance of what he says.

"The widespread use of polytypic species has several advantages for
information conveyance as pointed out by Mayr and Ashlock (1991.41).
Conspecific populations that differ from each other morphologically are
called subspecies. If such subspecies are part of a series of contiguous
populations, they are a purely taxonomic device. However, they are incipient
species if such subspecies are geographically isolated. They may in due time
acquire the needed isolating mechanisms to function as well separated
species. Owing to the gradualness of the process of speciation, every
incipient species at one time in its cycle goes through the subspecies

Things are much more complicated there than he (and I would say many others)
realize - or are perhaps willing to admit.  Especially in smaller life forms
like invertebrates (which live in a bigger world and longer time by virtue
of restricted mobility and short individual life spans).   If there is no
speciation process (which I can agree with) and only an evolutionary
process, then that which is real can only be the least common denominator -
those populations that are _now_ and _local_   - subspecific components of
"species" are a _phase_ all living things pass through.   When I am
encountered NOW you meet the real me.  When sexually reproductive unique
local populations (determined to be a singular _I_ for the reasons Mayr
states - functioning as one to maintain their genetic uniqueness and thus
survival) are encountered in the NOW we have met the real taxon.

The great misconception of subspecies is this thing of clines and blend
zones.  Climatic and geological history continually cycles life into
refugia.   I see the vast majority of subspecies evolving into "unique
reproductively stable populations" in that phase (evolution) of their being.
A plateau it reached, and a genetic stability (just apply what Mayr stated
for what makes a species a species and apply it to this organic plateau).
Just because two subspecies now meet (suture zone) and reproduce does not
make it a blend zone, a cline, and negate the uniqueness and reality of each
taxon.  A cline can only exist where one group evolves directly from its
neighboring sister - a grade.  (But even these can solidify in regional
organic bubbles (as it were) buffered by the blend zone entities.) Species
are just more specialized subspecies in the evolutionary process -
subspecies are branched entities and as such, can be associated in clades by
systematists (using genetic and morphological and biological tools).  When
the branch (subspecies) beaks fully away (species) and begins to branch to
other "reproductively stable, unique, local populations" another clade is

In my initial post in this thead I said.
" Species are not real, only subspecies are.  Why? Every species is but some
other thing's (extinct or future) subspecies.  Just give it enough time and

A species is just a more specialized and better defined subspecies - on its
way to extinction or the next phase.  The record we encounter outside the
now is only our seeing the effect of evolution on the real.  The real
remains always in the NOW and its address in however large or small of
region of that now it occupies as a unique reproductively stable organisM.
IT is real.  And every time this is encountered IT is a subspecies (whether
it's congers are extinct or not yet) in the evolutionary process.

I have spent 50 years among them.  I am a field based taxonomists - that is
my lab.  I pay attention to what the organisms I encounter are saying.
They render different data than their dead relatives in drawers, under
microscopes, and chemical test tubes.  Data that is essential to correctly
recognize what is all about us - REAL  FUNCTIONING LIFE.

Ron Gatrelle

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