The history of ecology and evolutionary biology is rife with attempts to define and delimit species. However, there has been confusion between concepts and criteria, which has led to discussion, debate, and conflict, eventually leading to lack of consistency in delimitation. Here, we provide a broad review of species concepts, a clarification of category versus concept, an account of the general lineage concept (GLC), and finally a way forward for species discovery and delimitation. Historically, species were considered as varieties bound together by reproduction. After over 200 years of uncertainty, Mayr attempted to bring coherence to the definition of species through the biological species concept (BSC). This has, however, received much criticism, and the last half century has spawned at least 20 other concepts. A central philosophical problem is that concepts treat species as ‘individuals’ while the criteria for categorization treats them as ‘classes’. While not getting away from this problem entirely, the GLC attempts to provide a framework where lineage divergence is influenced by a number of different factors (and correlated to different traits) which relate to the different species concepts. We also introduce an ‘inclusive’ probabilistic approach for understanding and delimiting species. Finally, we provide aWallacean (geography related) approach to the Linnaean problem of identifying and delimiting species, particularly for cases of allopatric divergence, and map this to the GLC. Going one step further, we take a morphometric terrainapproach to visualizing and understanding differences between lineages. In summary, we argue that while generalized frameworks may work well for concepts of what species are, plurality and ‘inclusive’ probabilistic approaches may work best for delimitation.
Volume 99, 2020
Continuous Article Publishing mode
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