Stankowski, SeanISTA; Ravinet, Mark
Humans conceptualize the diversity of life by classifying individuals into types we call ‘species’1. The species we recognize influence political and financial decisions and guide our understanding of how units of diversity evolve and interact. Although the idea of species may seem intuitive, a debate about the best way to define them has raged even before Darwin2. So much energy has been devoted to the so-called ‘species problem’ that no amount of discourse will ever likely solve it2,3. Dozens of species concepts are currently recognized3, but we lack a concrete understanding of how much researchers actually disagree and the factors that cause them to think differently1,2. To address this, we used a survey to quantify the species problem for the first time. The results indicate that the disagreement is extensive: two randomly chosen respondents will most likely disagree on the nature of species. The probability of disagreement is not predicted by researcher experience or broad study system, but tended to be lower among researchers with similar focus, training and who study the same organism. Should we see this diversity of perspectives as a problem? We argue that we should not.
We thank Christopher Cooney, Martin Garlovsky, Anja M. Westram, Carina Baskett, Stefanie Belohlavy, Michal Hledik, Arka Pal, Nicholas H. Barton, Roger K. Butlin and members of the University of Sheffield Speciation Journal Club for feedback on draft survey questions and/or comments on a draft manuscript. Three anonymous reviewers gave thoughtful feedback that improved the manuscript. We thank Ahmad Nadeem, who was paid to build the Shiny app. We are especially grateful to everyone who took part in the survey. Ethical approval for the survey was obtained through the University of Sheffield Ethics Review Procedure (Application 029768). S.S. was supported by a NERC grant awarded to Roger K. Butlin.
Stankowski S, Ravinet M. Quantifying the use of species concepts. Current Biology. 2021;31(9):R428-R429. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.060
Stankowski, S., & Ravinet, M. (2021). Quantifying the use of species concepts. Current Biology. Cell Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.060
Stankowski, Sean, and Mark Ravinet. “Quantifying the Use of Species Concepts.” Current Biology. Cell Press, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.060.
S. Stankowski and M. Ravinet, “Quantifying the use of species concepts,” Current Biology, vol. 31, no. 9. Cell Press, pp. R428–R429, 2021.
Stankowski S, Ravinet M. 2021. Quantifying the use of species concepts. Current Biology. 31(9), R428–R429.
Stankowski, Sean, and Mark Ravinet. “Quantifying the Use of Species Concepts.” Current Biology, vol. 31, no. 9, Cell Press, 2021, pp. R428–29, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.060.