Re: define species was Re: Modern Neanderthals?

Phillip Bigelow (
Thu, 24 Oct 1996 19:41:29 -0700

Lorenzo L. Love wrote:
> "David \"Oso\" Sierra" <> wrote:
> >On Mon, 21 Oct 1996, Larry Devich 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
> >species.

This, of course, is an irrelevant discussion from the point of view
of a paleontologist or a paleoanthropologist. The rules for
naming species are based only on structural features.
I have noted in the past that, using this criterium, most
"species" assignments made by both paleontologists and paleo
anthopologists have a very high probability of being innaccurate
from the point of view of a non-paleo zoologist. It is probable
that the majority of new "species" defined by paleo-scientists are
in reality new genera. Maybe "species" assignments are
just a "slippery slope" in non-paleo zoology, but in paleo, these
assignments are probably a more like a statistical artifact!