More South West Adventures

Subject: More South West Adventures
From: Lawrie Conole <>
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 17:30:25 +1000
Mick Todd wrote:

>After all, isn't the standard definition of a species -
>reproductively isolated populations? Therefore, if it is 
>believed that two taxa overlap and don't interbreed or 
>wouldn't interbreed if they did overlap then the taxa are 
>different species. To carry this argument through, if two 
>populations call differently to each other there would be 
>every chance that they wouldn't respond to each other 

Ah ... you've stumbled into the great debate in modern 
ornithology!  This is all about species limits, and the over-
arching philosophy you select to set them.  The "standard 
definition" you use above is generally referred to these 
days as the Biological Species Concept (BSC).  Coming up 
quickly on the inside lane, and gaining a lot of support, is 
the Phylogenetic Species Concept (PSC).

Whereas the BSC uses classic criteria such as you quoted 
above, the PSC is more concerned with taxa which have 
discrete phylogenetic lineages - usually determined or 
confirmed by molecular genetics methods.  Under the PSC the 
three shrike-tits would almost certainly qualify as separate 
species - though for various reasons they may just qualify 
under the BSC as well.  Any taxon which satisfies both BSC 
and PSC criteria these days is almost certain to be 
accepted "officially" as a new or separate species.

This story is of course much more complex than my mangled 
summary suggests, but time is getting away .... 

Lawrie Conole
Senior Zoologist
Ecology Australia Pty. Ltd.
Flora and Fauna Consultants
88B Station Street
FAIRFIELD VIC 3078 Australia
Ph: (03) 9489 4191; Mob: (0419) 588 993
Fax: (03) 9481 7679
ABN 83 006 757 142
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