Zoological Research ›› 2018, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (5): 301-308.doi: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2018.037

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Species delimitation based on diagnosis and monophyly, and its importance for advancing mammalian taxonomy

Eliécer E. Gutiérrez1,2,*, Guilherme S. T. Garbino3   

  1. 1 Pós-Graduação em Biodiversidade Animal, Departamento de Ecologia e Evolução, Centro de Ciências Naturais e Exatas, Universidade
    Federal de Santa Maria, Santa Maria, RS 97105-900, Brazil
    2 Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC 20013-7012, USA
    3 Pós-graduação, Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte,
    Minas Gerais 31270-901, Brazil
  • Online:2018-09-18 Published:2018-07-13
  • Contact: Eliécer E. Gutiérrez,E-mail:ee.gutierrez.bio@gmail.com E-mail:ee.gutierrez.bio@gmail.com
  • Supported by:
     

Abstract:

A recently proposed taxonomic classification of extant ungulates sparked a series of publications that criticize the Phylogenetic Species Concept (PSC) claiming it to be a particularly poor species concept. These opinions reiteratively stated that (1) the two fundamental elements of the "PSC", i.e., monophyly and diagnosability, do not offer objective criteria as to where the line between species should be drawn; and (2) that extirpation of populations can lead to artificial diagnosability and spurious recognitions of species. This sudden eruption of criticism against the PSC is misleading. Problems attributed to the PSC are common to most approaches and concepts that modern systematists employ to establish species boundaries. The controversial taxonomic propositions that sparked criticism against the PSC are indeed highly problematic, not because of the species concept upon which they are based, but because no evidence (whatsoever) has become public to support a substantial portion of the proposed classification. We herein discuss these topics using examples from mammals. Numerous areas of biological research rest upon taxonomic accuracy (including conservation biology and biomedical research); hence, it is necessary to clarify what are (and what are not) the real sources of taxonomic inaccuracy.

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