Mishler_SppBookChapter

Mishler_SppBookChapter - Mishler 1 In R Wilson(ed Species...

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Mishler 1 In R. Wilson (ed.), Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays, pp.307-315. MIT Press. 1999 Getting Rid of Species? by Brent D. Mishler University Herbarium, Jepson Herbarium, and Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, U.S.A. Abstract: This paper explores the implications of generalizing the species problem as a special case of the taxon problem. Once a decision is made about what taxa in general are to represent, then species in particular are simply the least inclusive taxon of that type. As I favor a Hennigian phylogenetic basis for taxonomy, I explore the application of phylogenetics to species taxa. Furthermore, I advocate a novel extension of the recent calls for rank-free phylogenetic taxonomy to the species level. In brief the argument is: (1) Species must be treated as just one taxon among many; (2) All taxa should be monophyletic groups; (3) Because of problems with instability and lack of comparability of ranks in the formal Linnaean system, we need to move to a rank-free formal classification system; (4) In such a system, not all hypothesized monophyletic groups need be named, but those that are named formally should be given unranked (but hierarchically nested) uninomials; (4) The least inclusive taxon, formally known as "species," should be treated in the same unranked manner. Finally, I explore the practical implications of eliminating the rank of species for such areas as ecology, evolution, and conservation, and conclude that these purposes are better served by this move. The debate about species concepts over the last 20 years follows a curious pattern. Rather than moving towards some kind of consensus, as one might expect, the trend has been towards an ever- increasing proliferation of concepts. Starting with the widely accepted species concept that had taken over in the 1940's and 50's as a result of the Modern Synthesis, the Biological Species Concept, we heard calls for change from botanists, behaviorists, etc. Despite the babel of new concepts, the BSC continues to have fervent advocates (Avise and Ball, 1990; Avise and Wollenberg, 1997), and has itself spawned several new variants. A recent paper by Mayden (1997) lists no fewer than 22 prevailing concepts! It appears we can never eliminate any existing concept, only produce new ones. Why is this? The obvious conclusion one might draw, that biologists are contrarians who each want to make their own personal mark in a debate and thus coin their own personal concept to defend, is really not the case -- this is no debate about semantics. The conceptual divisions are major, and real. In my opinion the plethora of ways in which different workers want to use the species category reflects an underlying plethora of valid ways of looking at biological diversity. The way forward is to recognize this, and face the implications: the basis of this confusion over species concepts is a result of heroic but
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Mishler 2 doomed attempts to shoehorn all this variation into an outdated and misguided classification system, the
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This note was uploaded on 08/01/2008 for the course IB 200 taught by Professor Lindberg,mishler,will during the Spring '08 term at Berkeley.

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Mishler_SppBookChapter - Mishler 1 In R Wilson(ed Species...

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