International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 1105-1126

First online:

The What, Why and How of Primate Taxonomy

  • Colin GrovesAffiliated withSchool of Archaeology & Anthropology, Australian National University

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Taxonomy has a well-defined role, which is much more than simply stamp-collecting and pigeon-holing. Species are the units of classification, biogeography and conservation; as such they must be defined as objectively as possible. The biological species concept, still widely used in biology, though predominantly by non-taxonomists and all too often misunderstood, is a process-based concept, which offers no criterion for the classification of allopatric populations beyond inference and hypothesis. The phylogenetic species concept—a pattern-based concept—is as nearly objective as we are likely to get. Amount of difference is not a criterion for recognizing species. It is not possible to insist on monophyly at the specific level, but it is mandatory for the higher categories (genus, family, etc.). The rank we assign to a given supraspecific category should be determined by its time depth.

taxonomy biological species concept phylogenetic species concept genetic species concept genus family phylocode