Species concepts should not conflict with evolutionary history, but often do

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Abstract

Many phylogenetic systematists have criticized the Biological Species Concept (BSC) because it distorts evolutionary history. While defences against this particular criticism have been attempted, I argue that these responses are unsuccessful. In addition, I argue that the source of this problem leads to previously unappreciated, and deeper, fatal objections. These objections to the BSC also straightforwardly apply to other species concepts that are not defined by genealogical history. What is missing from many previous discussions is the fact that the Tree of Life, which represents phylogenetic history, is independent of our choice of species concept. Some species concepts are consistent with species having unique positions on the Tree while others, including the BSC, are not. Since representing history is of primary importance in evolutionary biology, these problems lead to the conclusion that the BSC, along with many other species concepts, are unacceptable. If species are to be taxa used in phylogenetic inferences, we need a history-based species concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-414
Number of pages8
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Volume39
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2008

Keywords

  • Biological Species Concept
  • Phylogenetic Species Concept
  • Phylogenetic Trees
  • Taxonomy

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