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Increasing numbers of bird species result from taxonomic progress, not taxonomic inflation.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Systematic Zoology.
2009 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 276, 3185-3191 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The impact and significance of modern taxonomy on other fields in biology have been subjects of much debate. It has been proposed that increasing numbers of vertebrate species are largely owing to ‘taxonomic inflation’. According to this hypothesis, newly recognized species result from reinterpretations of species limits based on phylogenetic species concepts (PSCs) rather than from new discoveries. Here, I examine 747 proposals to change the taxonomic rank of birds in the period 1950–2007. The trend to recognize more species of birds started at least two decades before the introduction of PSCs. Most (84.6%) newly recognized species were supported by new taxonomic data. Proposals to recognize more species resulted from application of all six major taxonomic criteria. Many newly recognized species (63.4%) were not based exclusively on PSC-based criteria (diagnosability, monophyly and exclusive coalescence of gene trees). Therefore, this study finds no empirical support for the idea that the increase in species is primarily epistemological rather than data-driven. This study shows that previous claims about the causes and effects of taxonomic inflation lack empirical support. I argue that a more appropriate term for the increase in species is ‘taxonomic progress’.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 276, 3185-3191 p.
Keyword [en]
taxonomy; species limits; species criteria; species concepts
National Category
Biological Systematics
Research subject
Systematic Zoology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-42865DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0582OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-42865DiVA: diva2:351812
Available from: 2010-10-07 Created: 2010-09-16 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Integrative taxonomy of birds: Studies into the nature, origin and delimitation of species
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Integrative taxonomy of birds: Studies into the nature, origin and delimitation of species
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Species are the basic currency in biodiversity studies but what constitutes a species has long been controversial. A major breakthough was the insight that most systematists agree that species are segments of population lineages, and that multiple lines of evidence should be employed and integrated, a procedure called integrative taxonomy. For this dissertation, I have studied integrative taxonomy from three angles. First, I address a series of influential claims about the nature and empirical basis of taxonomic change in birds. In Paper I, I show that taxonomic change is overwhelmingly data-driven. Thus, increasing numbers of species represent progress, not taxonomic inflation resulting from a change in species concept. In Paper II, I provide the first detailed quantitative analysis of how species are delimited in practice. This study shows that, contrary to widely held beliefs, avian taxonomy has not been dominated by the Biological Species Concept. Instead, species delimitation is increasingly pluralistic and eclectic. I argue that taxonomic practice is more unified than is implied by the controversy over species concepts. Integrative taxonomy can provide new insights into the speciation process. In Paper III, I show that two very different evolutionary patterns have been referred to by the term ‘ring species’ which are best distinguished using an integrative approach. Finally, two case studies of integrative taxonomy are presented. In Paper IV, we describe a new cryptic species of owl, the Rinjani Scops Owl (Otus jolandae), using evidence from plumage details, morphometrics, vocalizations and playback studies. Paper V presents a study of the evolutionary history of diversification in a widespread Indo-Pacific passerine, the Red-bellied Pitta (Erythropitta erythrogaster). Using molecular species delimitation methods and evidence from plumage details and morphometrics, we suggest that this species includes up to 17 species which originated during the Pleistocene

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2013. 36 p.
Keyword
Aves, biogeography, integrative taxonomy, pluralism, ring species, speciation, species criteria, species limits, taxon chain
National Category
Biological Systematics
Research subject
Systematic Zoology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-96049 (URN)978-91-7447-818-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-12-12, Lilla hörsalen, Naturhistoriska riksmuseet, Frescativägen 40, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defence the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Ahead of Print; Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2013-11-20 Created: 2013-11-08 Last updated: 2013-11-20Bibliographically approved

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