Klots and species ---

DR. JAMES ADAMS JADAMS at em.daltonstate.edu
Thu Sep 6 13:51:03 EDT 2001


	Jeepers.  I certainly didn't mean to start all this.  Not that I'm 
necessarily complaining, as it is good to have this type of 
conversation from time to time.  I'm glad Norbert said what he said 
about species (see below), as it is really the best species definition 
there is (although not one that is necessarily useful to us 

Norbert said:
> animals decide, the opinion of a taxonomist who thinks the difference
> is minor is really irrelevant.

This is really the whole point.  A species consist of those individuals
 who can recognize (in some fashion) conspecifics, and distinguish 
them from non-conspecifics.  Ron might say consubspecifics, and 
I'm willing to give him that one.  Species (and certainly some 
named subspecies) are real; just because *humans* have a difficult 
time with defining species boundaries, and even the species 
themselves have the same difficulty, makes them no less real.  
And Jim, unfortunately there is no one easy definition for species, 
especially when you start looking at plants, as species maintain 
reproductive isolation in so many different ways and, as was 
pointed out, we are in a constantly changing environment where 
species are redefining themselves (hence subspecies, 
"semispecies" and the like).  Geez, I hope I haven't opened another 
can of worms.

	I haven't come close to reading all the responses to this yet, 
but I do have a few *opinions* about some of the stuff that has been 
said.  Excuse me if others have already made the following points.

	One:  it is remarkable how picky some people can be about 
what is said (I include myself here).  In my original message, I said 
something about "species or *populations of* species evolve", not 
any of the higher taxonomic categories.  My meaning was that, if a 
species consists of just one population, its entire evolution is 
therefore connected.  Clearly for most species, it is the individual 
populations that are the evolutionary units, not the whole species.  
I then stated something to the effect that "once a *species* is 
separate from any other formerly connected species, it is irrelevant 
to that species what happens to those other lineages."  Ron called 
me on this, saying I was "almost on the money" as it was 
"subspecies that evolve, not species".  Well, excu-use me!  
(tongue in cheek).  Species almost invariably will *first exist as 
single populations*, and because of this the entire species 
evolution is at least initially tied together.  Obviously, I'm being 
picky now.  

	Two:  subspecies.  I have made it abundantly clear in the past 
my feelings about this category, or perhaps I should say the 
*application of this category*.  I have seen this taxonomic category 
so misused and misapplied in the past that I have a tendency to be 
very skeptical when new subspecies are named.  This is by no 
fault of the concept itself -- obviously.  But an incredibly clear 
understanding of existing populations, named or not, and gene flow 
between them is necessary before the subspecific, or specific 
status of a population can be understood.  All I'm going to say 
on this topic for now.

	Three: I'll restate what I said before; any taxonomic category 
not connected currently by some sort of gene flow 
(subspecies/species) is an artificial *biological* construct.  I never 
said that genera/families/orders/classes/phyla (or any super-/sub-
categories thereof) were not useful or biologically informative.  But 
a child being able to recognize an arthropod, mammal, primate, or 
cat does not make the taxa we call "phyla", "class", "order" or 
"family" any more non-subjective.  And, no, I'm not saying that the 
subjectivity is uneducated subjectivity.  How do we decide whether 
to call a certain group of species a genus or a tribe or a family?  By 
some level of perceived relatedness based upon a *lot* of research. 
 It is through all this research that we've come to a tremendous 
amount of agreement on classification schemes.  However, 
*people* are involved, and as such *we cannot* escape some 
differences of opinion and interpretation, *some or all* of which may 
be well researched, educated opinions!!


Dr. James K. Adams
Dept. of Natural Science and Math
Dalton State College
213 N. College Drive
Dalton, GA  30720
Phone: (706)272-4427; fax: (706)272-2533
http://www.daltonstate.edu/galeps/  (Georgia Lepidoptera)
U of Michigan's President James Angell's 
  Secret of Success: "Grow antennae, not horns"


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