The Species Problem: A Symposium Presented at the Atlanta Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 28-29, 1955

The Species Problem: A Symposium Presented at the Atlanta Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 28-29, 1955

The Species Problem: A Symposium Presented at the Atlanta Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 28-29, 1955

The Species Problem: A Symposium Presented at the Atlanta Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 28-29, 1955

Excerpt

Few biological problems have remained as consistently challenging through the past two centuries as the species problem. Time after time attempts were made to cut the Gordian knot and declare the species problem solved either by asserting dogmatically that species did not exist or by defining, equally dogmatically, the precise characteristics of species. Alas, these pseudosolutions were obviously unsatisfactory. One might ask: "Why not simply ignore the species problem?" This also has been tried, but the consequences were confusion and chaos. The species is a biological phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Whatever else the species might be, there is no question that it is one of the primary levels of integration in many branches of biology, as in systematics (including that of microorganisms), genetics, and ecology, but also in physiology and in the study of behavior. Every living organism is a member of a species, and the attributes of these organisms can often best be interpreted in terms of this relationship. This is particularly true in comparative studies.

The continued interest in the species problem thus requires no apology. Indeed the interest in the species is perhaps greater now than it has been at any other time during the last hundred years. One reason for this is the increase in autecological investigations, which include a joint study of the physiological and ecological properties of species that has resulted in an active contact between physiology and ecology, with the species the area of overlapping interest. A second reason is the current tendency in population genetics to study the interaction, rather than the action, of genes, and thus to lead to a study of gene pools of which the species is the largest. A third is the emergence of a rejuvenated new systematics that devotes much of its attention to the intimate study of the population structure of species, a new school that is strongly represented in the southeastern United States. It is not surprising therefore that the species problem received more votes than any other subject when Dr. J. G. Carlson, Chairman of Sec tion F (Zoology) . . .

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