Are species real?
kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Apr 11 21:01:04 CDT 2006
The time dimension is a huge problem, given the continuity of the evolutionary process. The past is a problem because we generally don't have much to go on compared to what we have now (including collections from the last couple of centuries). The future causes even more problems since we can't predict whether populations will converge or diverge in the future (including whether or not intermediate populations of a circle of subspecies might be wiped out, which would make speciation a more definite probability).
Especially in the latter case (where full speciation is probably contingent on unknowable future events), perhaps it would be useful to make greater use of Ernst Mayr's superspecies concept (with superspecies divided into semispecies). Semispecies would be species to a splitter, but subspecies to a lumper. Sort of a middle ground for when lumpers and splitters can't agree (whether it is due to lack of information or different classificatory philosophies). If it is helpful for bird classification, I would think it would be even more helpful for faster evolving groups (like some beetle taxa).
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