Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-tj2md Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-22T23:24:05.471Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

What is a Species, and What is Not?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2022


I analyze a number of widespread misconceptions concerning species. The species category, defined by a concept, denotes the rank of a species taxon in the Linnaean hierarchy. Biological species are reproducing isolated from each other, which protects the integrity of their genotypes. Degree of morphological difference is not an appropriate species definition. Unequal rates of evolution of different characters and lack of information on the mating potential of isolated populations are the major difficulties in the demarcation of species taxa.

Research Article
Copyright © 1996 by the Philosophy of Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Anderson, E. (1949), Introgressive hybridization. New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Butlin, R. (1989), “Reinforcement of premating isolation,” in Otte and Endler (eds.), Speciation and its Consequences. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, pp. 158179.Google Scholar
Coyne, J. A., Orr, H. A. and Futuyma, D. J. (1988), “Do We Need a New Definition of Species?”, Systematic Zoology 37: 190200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Darwin, C. [1987], The Correspondence of Darwin. Burkhardt, F. and Smith, S. (eds.), Vol. 3 (18441846). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Dobzhansky, Th. (1935), “A Critique of the Species Concept in Biology”, Philosophy of Science 2: 344355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Emerson, A. E. (1945), “Taxonomic Categories and Population Genetics”, Ent. News. 56.Google Scholar
Ghiselin, M. T. (1971–1972), “The Individual in the Darwinian Revolution”, New Lit. Hist. 3: 123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gingerich, P. D. (1979), “The Stratophenetic Approach to Phylogeny Reconstruction in Vertebrate Paleontology”, in Cracraft, J. and Eldredge, N. (eds.) Phylogenetic Analysis and Paleontology. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 4277.Google Scholar
Grant, V. (1994), “Evolution of the Species Concept”, Biol. Zentbl. 113: 401415.Google Scholar
Hacking, I. (1991), “A tradition of natural kinds”, Philos. Studies 61: 109126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hennig, W. (1966), Phylogenetic Systematics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
Hull, D. L. (1975), “Are species really individuals?”, Systematic Zoology 25: 174191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitcher, P. (1989), “Some Puzzles about Species”, in Ruse, M. (ed.), What the Philosophy of Biology Is. Dordrecht: Kluwer Acad. Publ.Google Scholar
Kottler, M. (1978), Charles Darwin's Biological Species Concept and Theory or Geographic Speciation: the Transmutation Notebooks. Ann. Sci. 35: 275297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lion, L. W., and Price, T. D. (1994), “Speciation by Reinforcement of Premating Isolation”, Evolution 48: 14511459.Google Scholar
Mahner, M. (1994), “Phanomenalistische Erblast in der Biologie”, Biol Zentbl. 113: 435448.Google Scholar
Mayr, E. (1948), “The Bearing of the New Systematics on Genetical Problems; the Nature of Species”, Adv. Genet. 2: 205237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayr, E. (1949a), “The species concept: semantics versus semantics”, Evolution 3: 371372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayr, E. (1949b), “Speciation and systematics”, in Jepsen, G. L., Simpson, G. G., and Mayr, E. (eds.), Genetics, Paleontology, and Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 281298.Google Scholar
Mayr, E. (1957), “Species concepts and definitions”, in Mayr, E. (ed.), The Species Problem. Amer. Assoc. Adv. Sci., Publ. No. 50.Google Scholar
Mayr, E. (1969), Principles of Systematic Zoology. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 316Google Scholar
Mayr, E. (1970), Populations, Species, and Evolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Mayr, E. (1982), The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance. Cambridge, MA and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Mayr, E. (1987), “The Ontological Status of Species: Scientific Progress and Philosophical Terminology”, Biology and Philosophy 2: 145166.Google Scholar
Mayr, E. (1988a), Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Mayr, E. (1988b), “The Why and How of Species”, Biology and Philosophy 3: 431441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayr, E. (1992a), “A Local Flora and the Biological Species Concept”, American Journal of Botany 79: 222238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayr, E. (1992b), “The principle of divergence”, Journal of the History of Biology 25: 343359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayr, E. (1996), (in press), “The Biological Species Concept”, in Wheeler, Q. D. (ed.), The Phylogenetic Species. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Mayr, E. and Ashlock, P. (1991), Principles of Systematic Zoology. Revised Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
Meyer, A. (1990) “Ecological and Evolutionary Aspects of the Trophic Polymorphism in Cichlasoma citrinellum (Pisces: Cichlidae)”, Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 39:279299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paterson, H. E. H. (1985), “The Recognition Concept of Species”, in Vrba, E. S. (ed.) Species and Speciation, pp. 2129. Pretoria: Transvaal Museum Monograph No. 4.Google Scholar
Simpson, G. G. (1961), Principles of Animal Taxonomy. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sloan, P. (1987), “Buffon's Species concept. From Logical Universale to Historical Individuals: Buffon's Idea of Biological Species”, in Roger, J. and Fischer, F. L. (eds.), Histoire du Concept d'Espèce dans les Sciences de la Vie. Paris: Fondation Singer-Polignac, pp. 101140.Google Scholar
Sokal, R. R. and Crovello, T. J. (1970), “The Biological Species Concept: a Critical Evaluation”, American Naturalist 104: 127153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sonneborn, T. M. (1975), “The Paramecium aurelia complex of fourteen sibling species”, Transactions of the American Microscopical Society 94: 155178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Templeton, A. R. (1980), “The Theory of Speciation via the Founder Principle”, Genetics 94:10111038.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Templeton, A. R. (1989), “The Meaning of Species and Speciation: A Genetic Perspective”, in Otte, and Endler, (eds.), Speciation and its Consequences. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, pp. 327.Google Scholar
Templeton, A. R. (1994), “The Role of Molecular Genetics in Speciation Studies”, in Schierwater, B. et. al. (ed.) Molecular Ecology and Evolution. Basel: Birkhauser, pp. 455477.Google Scholar
Wheeler, Q. D. (1996), The Phylogenetic Species. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Whittemore, A. T. (1993), “Species Concepts: a Reply to Ernst Mayr”, Taxon 42: 573583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar