Ecological research and life at mid-sized liberal arts university
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
My Year of Darwin 9/17/2014: No idea what is a species is
"By the way I met the other day Phillips, the palaeontologist, & he asked me "how do you define species?" - I answered "I cannot" Whereupon he said "at last I have found out the only true definition, - 'any form which has ever has a specific name"!..." Charles Darwin, Letter to Asa Gray, November 1857
Yep, species definitions are a bug bear. Variation was still not important enough to taxonomists at the time to give proper insights into species and speciation, the latter of which wasn't widely accepted as actually being a real phenomenon. I still push the evolutionary/phylogenetic species concept - that species are populations that are unique from other populations (that's the diagnostic) and are evolving independently (that's the ontology aspect). Down with the Biological Species Concept!