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The application of species criteria in avian taxonomy and its implications for the debate over species concepts
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Systematic Zoology. Swedish Museum of Natural History.
2014 (English)In: Biological Reviews, ISSN 1464-7931, E-ISSN 1469-185X, Vol. 89, no 1, 199-214 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The debate over species concepts has produced a huge body of literature on how species can, may or should be delimited. By contrast, very few studies have documented how species taxa are delimited in practice. The aims of the present study were to (i) quantify the use of species criteria in taxonomy, (ii) discuss its implications for the debate over species concepts and (iii) assess recent claims about the impact of different species concepts on taxonomic stability and the ‘nature’ of species. The application of six species criteria was examined in taxonomic studies of birds published between 1950 and 2009. Three types of taxonomic studies were included: descriptions of new species (N=329), proposals to change the taxonomic rank of species and subspecies (N=808) and the taxonomic recommendations of the American Ornithologists’ Union Committee on Classification and Nomenclature (N=176). In all three datasets, diagnosability was the most frequently applied criterion, followed by reproductive isolation and degree of difference. This result is inconsistent with the popular notion that the Biological Species Concept is the dominant species concept in avian taxonomy. Since the 1950s, avian species-level taxonomy has become increasingly pluralistic and eclectic. This suggests that taxonomists consider different criteria as complementary rather than as rival approaches to species delimitation. Application of diagnosability more frequently led to the elevation of subspecies to species rank than application of reproductive isolation, although the difference was small. Hypotheses based on diagnosability and reproductive isolation were equally likely to be accepted in a mainstream checklist. These findings contradict recent claims that application of the Phylogenetic Species Concept causes instability and that broader application of the Biological Species Concept can stabilise taxonomy. The criteria diagnosability and monophyly, which are commonly associated with Phylogenetic Species Concepts, were used throughout the study period. Finally, no support was found for the idea that Phylogenetic Species Concepts have caused a change in the ‘nature’ of species taxa. This study demonstrates that there is a discrepancy between widely held perceptions of how species are delimited and the way species are actually delimited by taxonomists. Theoretically oriented debates over species concepts thus may benefit from empirical data on taxonomic practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 89, no 1, 199-214 p.
Keyword [en]
Biological Species Concept, birds, integrative taxonomy, Phylogenetic Species Concept, species limits, taxonomic stability
National Category
Biological Systematics
Research subject
Systematic Zoology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-91100DOI: 10.1111/brv.12051ISI: 000329357500011OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-91100DiVA: diva2:630793
Available from: 2013-06-19 Created: 2013-06-19 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically 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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