Re: NANFA-- Re: Fundulus blairae

Bruce Stallsmith (
Thu, 05 Sep 2002 13:25:42 -0400

I agree with all you say, Chris, except that I would say that species are
naturally occuring groups in nature. That doesn't mean that we as humans
understand or recognize all valid species, but these are groups of organisms
that share recent ancestry and are mutually interfertile (the last point
being valid only for sexually-reproducing, diploid organisms).

And certainly subspecies as a concept is at best a fuzzy, short-term handle
for relationships we don't grasp. Distinct populations of species can and do
exist, but they're either members of the same species or they're not.

Having said all that, I don't know all the arguments about F. blairae as a
good species or not. I gotta track them down...

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL, US of A

>What's important to realize is that the species concept is an artificial
>concept, imposed by humans to try to inventory and order natural diversity.
>A species has no idea it's a species, and may often resist Linnean
>pigeonholing. In addition to rift lake cichlids, lampreys and sticklebacks
>the Pacific Northwest challenge species concepts. As such, I've noticed
>that the term "super species" is increasingly being used to define groups
>of sympatric organisms that are easily distinguished by morphology
>and/or behavior, yet are more or less genetically identical. In addition,
>many taxonomists are throwing away the subspecies rank altogether; if
>each "subspecies" is a recognizable and quantifiable unit of biodiversity,
>then it's unique and should be treated as a full species. (This happened
>recently with the splitting of African elephants into 3 or 4 separate
>species.) The upshot of all this splitting and lumping is that the natural
>world is far more wonderfully diverse than our abilities to catalogue it,
>delightful new surprises around every bend and riffle. It's not so
>that we agree on any given classification or species concept, but that we
>agree that all units of biodiversity are worth protecting.
>Chris Scharpf
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