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J Nematol. Mar 1998; 30(1): 1–21.
PMCID: PMC2620279

Species Concepts and the Evolutionary Paradigm in Modem Nematology


Given the task of recovering and representing evolutionary history, nematode taxonomists can choose from among several species concepts. All species concepts have theoretical and (or) operational inconsistencies that can result in failure to accurately recover and represent species. This failure not only obfuscates nematode taxonomy but hinders other research programs in hematology that are dependent upon a phylogenetically correct taxonomy, such as biodiversity, biogeography, cospeciation, coevolution, and adaptation. Three types of systematic errors inherent in different species concepts and their potential effects on these research programs are presented. These errors include overestimating and underestimating the number of species (type I and II error, respectively) and misrepresenting their phylogenetic relationships (type III error). For research programs in hematology that utilize recovered evolutionary history, type II and III errors are the most serious. Linnean, biological, evolutionary, and phylogenefic species concepts are evaluated based on their sensitivity to systematic error. Linnean and biological species concepts are more prone to serious systematic error than evolutionary or phylogenetic concepts. As an alternative to the current paradigm, an amalgamation of evolutionary and phylogenetic species concepts is advocated, along with a set of discovery operations designed to minimize the risk of making systematic errors. Examples of these operations are applied to species and isolates of Heterorhabditis.

Keywords: adaptation, biodiversity, biogeography, coevolufion, comparative method, cospeciation, evolution, nematode, philosophy, species concepts, systematics, taxonomy

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