[Taxacom] Neanderthals a species? (was: barcode of life)

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Jul 2 23:37:42 CDT 2010

caution needs to be exercised here, as it isn't perfectly clear what Rich is asking, so if you agree with him, you might not be agreeing to what you think you are agreeing to!

If I understand Rich, he thinks of speciation as arising from subspeciation along a perfect continuum, with no non-arbitrary dividing line imposed by the world, just up to us to "choose to suit our purposes", so reproductive isolation just doesn't enter into it. So the question, is it species or subspecies, is PURELY a matter of taste (lumpers vs. splitters), as is the case for genera. Let us confine discussion to allopatric populations, as it all becomes mindbending if you consider sympatry. Take Geodorcus sororum again as an example. I think on Rich's view, Holloway can simply choose to call it a distinct species or not, and no additional information is relevant. But she evidently thinks that additional information can refute her current opinion, so these two models of what taxonomists do would appear to be very different...

I think Rich is misled by the existence of a continuum of difference/reproductive isolation between populations. I think he thinks that continuity=subjectivity, but I accept the existence of the continuum while at the same time rejecting subjectivity of species boundaries. My topography analogy was supposed to illustrate that, but I suspect it has passed people by. Another example is statistics as applied to say ecology: we want to find REAL (statistically significant) differences in the world, but we must still choose a significance level from a continuum of possibilities...

It is very difficult to disentangle several related issues here ...


From: Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
To: Kenneth Kinman <kennethkinman at webtv.net>; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Sat, 3 July, 2010 3:36:19 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Neanderthals a species? (was: barcode of life)


I wonder if you could clarify something.  You wrote:

>        These examples show how too many biologists still fail 
> to recognize just how difficult speciation actually is and 
> too often jump to the conclusion that differences 
> (morphological, genetic, or even
> behavioral) indicate speciation RATHER than subspeciation.        

It sounds (by use of the all-caps "RATHER") that you see the process of
speciation being fundamentally different from the process of subspeciation.
Is that an accurate interpretation of your views?  Or, do you see speciation
and subspeciation as different (perhaps overlapping) regions along a
continuum of processes of isolation and divergence that exist among extant
populations? (If you only emphasized "RATHER" as a way of disparaging
excessive splitting at the species level -- then we are of like-mind on this


P.S. I can't compete with the size of your P.S.'s, so I won't try.


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