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Unformatted text preview: d] the risk of outbreeding depression [will
b e] minimized” (Frankham et al. 2012: 30). And from a systema tist’s point of view, this approach also has the advantage of
t aking into account Nature’s blurry lines.
It is true that the information necessary for applying the
D FSC will not always be available. But Frankham et al. (2012)
a lso make a persuasive more general case for applying the prin ciples of the BSC, rather than those of the PSC, for conservation
p urposes. And they very wisely insist that any species listing
o r classification be accompanied by an explicit statement of
t he species concept from which it was derived. Crucially, their
c onservation-oriented recommendations have the additional
a dvantage that they should also be entirely acceptable to any
t axonomist who is aware of the complexities of the multi-level
e volutionary process(es). If there is one thing we can certainly
a ll agree upon, it is that descent with modification is the only
h ypothesis we have that predicts the observed organization of
b iological diversity we find in Madagascar and elsewhere, both
a t lower and higher levels of the taxonomic hierarchy. And if we
d eny that species may be polytypic, we shall starve evolution
o f its most basic component, namely population differentiation.
The bottom line here is that we do not need to gild the lily
o f Madagascar’s altogether remarkable biodiversity by maximiz ing the possible number of its species. After all, even on the
m ost conservative estimates of species numbers, this unique
d iversity is already impressive enough to place the island at M A DAG A SC A R CO NSERVAT I O N & D E V ELO PM EN T VOLUME 8 | I SSUE 1 — J ULY 2013 t he forefront of conservationist awareness. To put the matter
a nother way, more is not necessarily better. In fact, in the long
r un an unnecessary multiplicity of species will almost certainly
c omplicate the conservation enterprise.
Yes, there is without doubt an enormous amount of biologi cal diversity and ecological complexity out there in the forests of
M adagascar: a diversity that requires not only to be recognized,
b ut to be appropriately categorized. There can be no doubt
t hat those who have applied the criterion of diagnosability to
t he recognition of species in the Malagasy primate fauna have
p erformed a salutary service, in drawing attention to the amaz ing extent of this diversity and complexity. But the effort to
u nderstand the multi - level population dynamics involved will
n ot be well served by simply imprisoning the actors in Madagascar’s evolutionary play within an irreducible number of
p igeonholes. There is clearly a lot more going on in the Malagasy
b iosphere than this static view would suggest. Accepting that
s pecies are dynamic but historically individuated entities, rather
t han typological units defined by their possession of uniquely
d erived characters, will free our minds to clarify this complexity.
I t will help us to ask the right questio...
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- Fall '08