[Taxacom] FW: The 'reality' of species boundaries -- Once Again (UGHHH!)

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Sat Sep 12 14:29:33 CDT 2009

Now that Stephen has decided to forward my off-list message to this list, I
feel I should clarify one of my comments that could be misunderstood out of

I said:

> In your world view, based on your experience with nature, you 
> have confidence that there are natural barriers between 
> species groups.  My world view, based on my experience with 
> nature, leads me to a different conclusion.  

Obviously (I hope it's obvious), my world view very-much recognizes the
reality of reproductive barriers between organisms.  We don't have many
hybrids between wolves and palm trees; or even between wolves and mountain
lions. The reason we don't see such hybrids is, of course, the existence of
one or more barriers (behavioural, mechanical, biochemical, genetic, etc.)
to gene exchange.  My contention to Stephen is that the average "fuzziness"
zone (which he acknowledges exists) surrounding many species is broader than
he makes it out to be (we do occassionaly see hybrids between wolves and
coyotes), to the point where a non-trivial fraction of species boundaries
are potentially (and legitimately) contentious, and are at the mercy of
human subjectivity (even with perfect knowledge of the biology).

My one wish is that this simple point of clarification does not launch yet
another wave of debate. If it does, it certainly won't be perpetuated by me.


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