Species definitions!

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Wed Sep 5 13:00:21 EDT 2001

I left the senders name off this and mailed to "group" to give body
language to this post that I am not attacking or even addressing a person.
Can people have intelligent debate without everything having to be taken

It was written:
> Sorry Jim!  There never has been and never will be a clear, simple,
> black-or-white, definition of species.  The concept of species is
> inherently subjective because the process that generate these
> fascinating units of taxonomy is exactly that, a process.

This is not true.  As Alex pointed out there is some pretty good info on
this in the old Peterson Klots' field guide (and lots of other places).
Sometimes we make things more complicated than they are.
1) Are there, and do we know - that plants and animals are different?  If
so, then the rank of Kingdom is clearly defined to a 3 year old - even
though they don't know the terms, Plantae/Animalia.
2)  Are there, and do we know -  that Insects and Fish are very different?
If so, then the rank of Phylum is clearly defined to a 4 year old - even
though they don't know the terms, Arthropoda/Chordata.
3) Is there, and do we know - the difference between Butterflies and
Lobsters?  If so, the rank of Class is clearly defined to a 5 year old -
even though they do not know the terms, Hexapoda/Crustacea.
4) Are there, and do we know - that butterflies/moths and beetles are
different?  If so, the rank of Order is clearly defined to a 6 year old -
even though they do not know the terms, Lepidoptera/Coleoptera.
5) How about moths and butterflies?  Does a 7 year old know they are
different? If so, then the rank of Suborder is evident to him/her even
though they likely do not know the terms Heterocera/Rhopalocera.
6) And among the butterflies, does a 8 year old now notice skippers are
different from other butterflies?  If so, then the taxonomic rank of
Superfamily is acknowledged even though the terms
Papilionoidea/Hesperioidea are yet unknown to them.
7) Does the budding lepidopterist of 9 clearly see that hairstreaks and
swallowtails are different - even their larva?  Ditto to the rank of
8) If the youngster lived in the 1960's by 10 he would observe and also
know the terms and parameters of Subfamily, Tribe, Genus and definitely
species.  His parents would have given him/her Klots and Holland or
Comstock for their birthday and they would be well aware of it all.
9) But back when they were 2 they would have known what species are. Cow
says moooo, pig says oink and dog says woof woof. They may not know that
Mama's name is Hazeleen but they know she is not the dog or cat.
10) Unfortunately by the time they hit 35 and get a PhD they will have
unlearned all this as they have now found that as extensions from the
primeval ooze we are all the same 'thing" and nothing has really even gone
extinct it has all just morphed into something(s) else. We have now
"intellectualized" and "philosophized" the obvious to the point of asking
silly questions like how do we know what a species is.

Simple, in our Order, they have sex all the time and reproduce (replicate)
themselves (their population) over and over. See any child's encyclopedia
and you will find this answer. Or, just do what Alex said and check Klots
page 296. Since most today don't have this I'll quote in part. "...In the
first place a species is a population, composed of individuals. These have
certain inheritable, distinctive characters in common, which set them apart
from all other populations. They usually vary somewhat in minor expressions
of these and other characters, but the variation is within definite limits.
The species as a whole must reproduce itself, through the reproductive
activities of the individuals.  This must be done successfully enough for
the survival of the species, which otherwise will become extinct. The
reproductive power of the species must balance the destructive powers of
its enemies and of other environmental forces. The species must, moreover,
reproduce itself not only successfully but naturally. We are not concerned
with man-made "hybrids."

"There never has been and never will be a clear, simple,  black-or-white,
definition of species."  Really.  Lets see... Yup, the paper is still white
and the ink black in my _old_ Klots guide.  Looks clear, simple and in
black and white- and 1951 qualifies as "has been".  Of course, many of our
new genetically engineered academia just see Klots (and the rest of us old
times) as plain has beens.


> I think that instead of feeling frustrated and discouraged by lack of
> agreement on what a "species" is, it would be a more rewarding
> experience to enjoy the truly marvelous diversity presented by life
> and appreciate the complexity of processes that generate such amazing
> variety.
> Just my two cents.

Is this the 60's?  Let's put flowers in our hair and smoke dope. Why pay
thousands to go to college? To learn to have no absolutes? No clear
definitions? To learn to be one with the cosmos and just lay back and enjoy
it all? Yes, there is a marvelous diversity, and a great evolutionary
complexity too. I do enjoy it. And I enjoy it more and more as I learn and
understand it more and more. If the idiots making parking lots out of
habitat could see that trees are oak AND pine, then kinds of oak and pine,
Quercus and .... Perhaps they would enjoy it more than the mall.

Ron Gatrelle


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