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

Eric.Zurcher at csiro.au Eric.Zurcher at csiro.au
Thu Jan 29 23:34:43 CST 2009

Why are species special? Higher taxa are circumscribed largely on the basis of sharing a common ancestor. Species are (generally) circumscribed not only on the basis of sharing a common ancestor, but also on the likelihood of sharing a common descendant. 

The fact that taxonomic boundaries are often difficult to discern and are subject to disagreement is no reason to despair. Rather, as we approach the bicentennial of Darwin's birth, let's celebrate this exquisite evidence that evolution is an on-going process, occurring all around us.

Eric Zurcher
CSIRO Plant Industry
Canberra, Australia
Eric.Zurcher at csiro.au

| -----Original Message-----
| From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
| [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Kirk Fitzhugh
| Sent: Friday, 30 January 2009 4:05 PM
| To: Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
| Subject: Re: [Taxacom] [tdwg] Semantic Web: What is a species?
| Curtis,
| There's no problem to speak of species as not being real, 
| except in the context of representing one of our classes of 
| hypotheses accounting for particular properties of organisms. 
| Acknowledging that species are such hypotheses doesn't 
| require invoking metaphysics in lieu of 'science' and 
| certainly doesn't compromise events under the heading of 'speciation.'
| Why are species special? Tokogeny refers to events involving 
| organisms, phylogeny refers to more inclusive events 
| involving organisms. The naturalness of those events is no 
| less special than those to which species refer.
| Kirk
| -----Original Message-----
| Although my general views on this subject are probably 
| well-documented, 
| if not well-remembered (e.g., if species aren't real, the study of 
| speciation is metaphysics, not science), but this is exactly an issue 
| that I have considered in the same light.
| Are species "special"? I think so, but only because they mark the 
| boundary between tokogenetic and phylogenetic patterns; I 
| don't see them 
| as "more natural". I think extraterrestrials would need some study to 
| come to that level of conclusion, whether or not they agreed 
| or disagreed.
| -- 
| Curtis Clark                  http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
| Director, I&IT Web Development                   +1 909 979 6371
| University Web Coordinator, Cal Poly Pomona

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