[Taxacom] [tdwg] Semantic Web: What is a species?

Gurcharan Singh-satyam singhg at satyam.net.in
Sat Jan 24 22:21:37 CST 2009

The discussion on species could be endless, but I think it is "unreal" to 
compare species with higher categories (genus, family, etc.) and 
infraspecific categories simultaneously.
 True when compared to higher categories species are real as they provide 
you first hand information from material, are not depedent on other 
categories (in great majority of cases, where there are no infraspecific 
taxa), and unlike higher categories are nonarbitrary to both inclusion as 
well as exclusion.
  In those cases, however, where infraspecific taxa do exist, latter 
categories are "real", as they are now your sources of information, except 
for the autonyms, where species existed before the autonym got established.
     The discussion could be endless, and it has been

Gurcharan Singh
University of Delhi

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Richard Pyle" <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
To: <tdwg at lists.tdwg.org>; <Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2009 6:25 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] [tdwg] Semantic Web: What is a species?

>> How do others think of species?
> I do not think that species are any more "real" than subspecies, genera, 
> and
> families. I believe all of these things are abstract notions representing
> aggregate sets of individual organisms, defined and labelled by humans in 
> a
> way that allows us to communicate with each other with some degree of
> efficiency (though certainly not perfect efficiency).
> Having said that, I think it is highly practical in many cases to treat
> units of "species" as though they were cohesive, singular, "real" entities
> that exist in nature (within a given slice of geologic time) independantly
> of human interpretations, because doing so also facilitates communication.
> This is particularly true in cases characterized by realtively broad
> periods/populations of phenetic and/or genetic stasis, homogeneity and
> consistency, punctuated by relatively small periods/populations of 
> phenetic
> and/or genetic divergence, heterogeneity and spectral forms. I think the
> dangers and problems (nomenclatural instability, poorly supported
> hypotheses, confusing and conflicting lines of evidence) are most evident
> when people attempt to apply assumptions based on the "reality" of species
> to cases that are not so characterized.
> Thus, I do not believe that species are "real", but I believe there are
> contexts in which is it useful to think of them as such.
> I think the practice of identifying individual organisms to species 
> concepts
> is mostly independent of whether those concepts represent human-defined
> constructs, or "natural" units that exist in nature independantly of human
> interpretations. Analagous to my view of species, I think that 
> morphological
> and genetic characters are properties of organisms, but in many cases it 
> is
> highly practical to treat them as though they are properties of "species",
> given the same caveats described above.
> Aloha,
> Rich
> Richard L. Pyle, PhD
> Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences
>  and Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology
> Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum
> 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
> Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
> email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
> http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/staff/pylerichard.html
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