[Taxacom] (no subject)

J. Kirk Fitzhugh kfitzhugh at nhm.org
Thu Jan 29 11:26:42 CST 2009

The attributes of biting and breeding pertain to *individual organisms*. 
In 30 years working on the systematics of marine organisms I've never 
'seen' much less perceived a species, or any other taxon. The reason is 
simple - they do not have the ontological status of being 'things' such 
that they have the requisite properties by which they can be perceived. 
I also deny that we're dealing with clusters. We deal with organisms, 
and the consequence is that we infer all sorts of explanatory 
hypotheses, some of them called 'taxa.'

Like Don Colless, I've published such thoughts a few times:

Fitzhugh, K.  2005.  The inferential basis of species hypotheses: the
solution to defining the term ‘species.’  Marine Ecology 26: 155-165.

Fitzhugh, K.  2006.  The abduction of phylogenetic hypotheses.  Zootaxa
1145: 1-110.

Fitzhugh, K.  2008.  Abductive inference: implications for ‘Linnean’ and
‘Phylogenetic’ approaches for representing biological systematization.
Evolutionary Biology 35: 52-82.

Fitzhugh, K.  in press.  Species as explanatory hypotheses: refinements
and implications.  Acta Biotheoretica.


Frederick W Schueler wrote:
> Don.Colless at csiro.au wrote:
>  > ...seem to believe that a SPECIES can breed in shallow water, bite 
> humans, etc. But surely this is just shorthand for the statement that 
> MEMBERS of that species breed in shallow water, etc. No matter how real, 
> a species has no mouthparts for biting people! For me, Aedes aegypti is 
> about as real (or unreal) as the Canberra Raiders football team. These 
> things are "clusters", sort of halfway between individuals and classes.
> * but the attributes of biting People and breeding in shallow water can 
> be part of a niche space, which a species could be said to occupy, and a 
> species could be visualized as a cluster of individuals in a niche space.
> Then the ecological "species question" is whether Mosquitoes occupy 
> their niche space homogeneously or lumpily, and, if lumpily, to what 
> extent (or how) the clusters in niche space match up with clusters in 
> "descent space" and "morphology space."

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