On the failure of modern species concepts

Trends Ecol Evol. 2006 Aug;21(8):447-50. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2006.05.011. Epub 2006 Jun 8.


The modern age of species concepts began in 1942, when Ernst Mayr gave concept names to several different approaches to species identification. A long list of species concepts then followed, as well as a complex literature on their merits, motivations and uses. Some of these complexities arose as a consequence of the semantic shift that Mayr introduced, in which procedures for identifying species were elevated to concepts. Much of the debate in recent decades over concepts, and over pluralism versus monism, can be seen as an unnecessary consequence of treating species identification criteria as if they were more fundamental concepts. Recently, biologists have begun to recognize both the shortcomings of a lexicon of multiple species concepts and a common evolutionary idea that underlies them.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Species Specificity*