Species and primatology

Taxonomy must ensure a fine balance between changing information and stable communication. The main uncertainties and debates surrounding taxonomic nomenclature are associated with too severe applications of species concepts, differences in scopes and needs, and also confounding factors related to ethics or personal targets. Primatology is particularly sensitive to “taxonomic inflation”, and many interesting theoretical issues have not managed to supply effective practical solutions to numerous outstanding questions. Recently, Colin Groves and Alfred Rosenberger have discussed these topics in the American Journal of Primatology. A third paper written by me gives a further perspective in evolutionary anthropology, for which most of these problems are amplified because of the scarce information associated with incompleteness of the fossil record, limits in assessing taxonomic levels from morphology alone, and narrow diversity in hominid evolutionary radiation. Analytical outputs are often directly presented as phylogenies and automatically transformed into compulsive taxonomic changes. This forces subsequent interpretations of natural processes and diversity into rigid and probably unrealistic perspectives, biased by our mental necessity to focus on discrete objects rather than on their dynamic relationships.

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2 Responses to “Species and primatology”


  1. 1 emi October 15, 2012 at 11:31

    This paper has been also recently published:

    Species inflation and taxonomic artefacts – A critical comment on recent trends in mammalian classification
    (Mammalian Biology 2012)

    The first author is Frank Zachos, from the Natural History Museum of Vienna.

    I really recommend to read this article if you are interested in this topic! The paper is incredibly effective in presenting many issues about “inflation”, describing very efficiently pros and cons of genetics. There are good case-studies, and very practical and sensate comments.

  2. 2 Emiliano Bruner February 21, 2013 at 09:43

    And a special issue on Journal of Evolutionary Biology on hybridization and speciation:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jeb.2013.26.issue-2/issuetoc


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