define species was Re: Modern Neanderthals?

Lorenzo L. Love (
23 Oct 1996 19:33:25 GMT

"David \"Oso\" Sierra" <> wrote:
>On Mon, 21 Oct 1996, Larry Devich wrote:
>> On 20 Oct 1996 17:39:32 GMT, "Rohinton Collins"
>> <> wrote
>> It seems to me that this definition of a species is very slippery.
>> How do you determine if a population is reproductively isolated?


>> If two groups of organisms are isolated but not really noticeably
>> different, can interbreed and produce fertile offspring you call them
>> two species?? Using this definition Inuit would be a different
>> species from Bushmen, correct?
>No. If two groups can successfully interbreed, dispite their
>physilogical differences then they are, by defintion, part of the same

Like Canis familiaris, Canis lupus and Canis latrans? Dogs, wolfs and
coyotes in any combination can produce fertile offspring, therefore
they must be all the same species. Does that means the entire
classification system is faulty? A chihuahua and a Saint Bernard are
unlikey to produce a successful mating. Does that make them different
species? It seems to me that the definition of species is indeed very
slippery and arbitrary. Social and historical factors are as important as
the ability to interbreed. Once Neanderthals were a different species;
now they are the same species. Maybe tomorrow they will be different
again. This in no way changes what the Neanderthals really were, only
changes in how we perceive them. That perception changes with the
fashions and misconception of the day. We like to think that each time
our view of the past changes that we move a little closer to the truth
but I'm not convinced that is so.

Lorenzo L. Love