Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 181–196 | Cite as

How is a species kept together?

  • Peter J. Beurton


Over the decades, there has been substantial empirical evidence showing that the unity of species cannot be maintained by gene flow. The biological species concept is inconclusive on this point. The suggestion is made that the unity of species is maintained rather by selection constantly spreading new alleles throughout the species, or bygene circulation. There is a lack in conceptual distinction between gene flow and gene circulation which lies at the heart of the problem. The concept of gene circulation also sheds some new light on the problem of typology and on such a broad concept as evolution. A new species definition is proposed.

Key words

Biological species concept gene flow gene circulation Ernst Mayr stalemates typology evolution 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beurton, P.: 1991, “What Keeps a Species Together?”, in W. R. Woodward and R. S. Cohen (eds.),World Views and Scientific Discipline Formation, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 293–298.Google Scholar
  2. Bowler, P. J.: 1984,Evolution. The History of an Idea, University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  3. Bradshaw, A. D.: 1972, “Some of the Evolutionary Consequences of Being a Plant”,Evolutionary Biology 5, 25–47.Google Scholar
  4. Diver, C.: 1940, “The Problem of Closely Related Species Living in the Same Area” in J. Huxley (ed.),The New Systematics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 303–328.Google Scholar
  5. Dobzhansky, T.: 1935, “A Critique of the Species Concept in Biology”,Philosophy of Science 2, 344–355.Google Scholar
  6. Dobzhansky, T.: 1950, “Mendelian Populations and their Evolution”,American Naturalist 84, 401–418.Google Scholar
  7. Donoghue, J. M.: 1982, “A Critique of the Biological Species Concept and Recommendations for a Phylogenetic Alternative”,Bryologist 88, 172–181.Google Scholar
  8. Dunn, L. C.: 1961, “Big and Little Populations: An Amateur's Excursion”,American Naturalist 95, 129–136.Google Scholar
  9. Ehrlich, P. R. and R. W. Holm: 1962, “Patterns and Populations”,Science 137, 652–657.Google Scholar
  10. Ehrlich, P. R. and H. Raven: 1969, “Differentiation of Populations”,Science 165, 1228–1232.Google Scholar
  11. Endler, J. A.: 1973, “Gene Flow and Population Differentiation”,Science 179, 243–250.Google Scholar
  12. Ereshefsky, M.: 1989, “Where's the Species? Comments on the Phylogenetic Species Concepts”,Biology and Philosophy 4, 89–96.Google Scholar
  13. Fisher, R. A.: 1930,The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  14. Grant, V.: 1980, “Gene Flow and the Homogeneity of Species Populations”,Biologisches Zentralblatt 99, 157–169.Google Scholar
  15. Grant, V.: 1981,Plant Speciation, Columbia University Press, New York, 2nd. edition.Google Scholar
  16. Grene, M.: 1989, “A Defence of David Kitts”,Biology and Philosophy 4, 69–72.Google Scholar
  17. Hull, D.: 1980, “Individuality and Selection”,Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 11, 311–332.Google Scholar
  18. Jackson, J. F. and J. A. Pounds: 1979, “Comments on Assessing the Dedifferentiating Effect of Gene Flow”,Systematic Zoology 28 78–85.Google Scholar
  19. Jonsell, B.: 1984, “The Biological Species Concept Reexamined”, in W. F. Grant (ed.),Plant Biosystematics, Academic Press, Toronto, pp. 159–168.Google Scholar
  20. Levin, D. A.: 1979, “The Nature of Plant Species”,Science 204, 381–384.Google Scholar
  21. Levin, D. A.: 1981, “Dispersal Versus Gene Flow in Plants”,Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 68, 233–253.Google Scholar
  22. Levin, D. A. and H. W. Kerster: 1974, “Gene flow in Seed Plants”,Evolutionary Biology 7, 139–220.Google Scholar
  23. Lewontin, R. C.: 1967, “Population Genetics”,Annual Review of Genetics 1, 37–70.Google Scholar
  24. Mayr, E.: 1942,Systematics and the Origin of Species, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  25. Mayr, E.: 1948, “The Bearing of the New Systematics of Genetical Problems. The Nature of Species”,Advances in Genetics 2, 205–237.Google Scholar
  26. Mayr, E.: 1954, “Change of Genetic Environment and Evolution”, in J. Huxley, A. C. Hardy and E. B. Ford (eds.),Evolution as a Process, Allen and Unwinn, London, pp. 157–180 (quoted from E. Mayr 1976a)Google Scholar
  27. Mayr, E.: 1956, “Geographical Character Gradients and Climatic Adaptation”,Evolution 10, 105–108.Google Scholar
  28. Mayr, E.: 1957, “Species Concepts and Definitions”, in E. Mayr (ed.),The Species Problem, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Publication No. 50, pp. 1–22.Google Scholar
  29. Mayr, E.: 1963,Animal Species and Evolution, Belknap Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  30. Mayr, E.: 1964,Systematics and the Origin of Species, 2nd ed., Dover Publications, New York.Google Scholar
  31. Mayr, E.: 1969,Principles of Systematic Zoology, McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  32. Mayr, E.: 1974, “The Challenge of Diversity”,Taxon 23, 3–9 (quoted from E. Mayr 1976a).Google Scholar
  33. Mayr, E.: 1976a,Evolution and the Diversity of Life. Selected Essays, Belknap Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  34. Mayr, E.: 1976b, “Population Size and Evolutionary Parameters”, in E. Mayr 1976a, pp. 53–63.Google Scholar
  35. Mayr, E.: 1982, “Processes of Speciation in Animals”, in C. Barigozzi, (ed.),Mechanisms of Speciation, Alan R. Liss, New York, pp. 1–19.Google Scholar
  36. Mayr, E.: 1986, “The Species as Category, Taxon and Population”, in J. Roger and J. L. Fischer (eds.),Histoire du concept d'espèce dans sciences de la vie, Fondation Singer-P lignac, Paris, pp. 294–311.Google Scholar
  37. Mayr, E.: 1987, “Answers to These Comments”,Biology and Philosophy 2, 212–220.Google Scholar
  38. Mishler, B. D. and M. J. Donoghue: 1982, “Species Concepts: A Case for Pluralism”,Systematic Zoology 31, 491–503.Google Scholar
  39. Popper, K. R.: 1979, “The Aim of Science”, in K. R. Popper,Objective Knowledge, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 191–205.Google Scholar
  40. Pounds, J. A. and J. F. Jackson: 1981, “Riverine Barriers to Gene Flow and the Differentiation of Fence Lizard Populations”,Evolution 35, 516–528.Google Scholar
  41. Raven, P. H.: 1986, “Modern Aspects of the Biological Species in Plants”, in K. Iwatsuki, P. H. Raven, and W. J. Bock (eds.),Modern Aspects of Species, University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo, pp. 11–29.Google Scholar
  42. Rosenberg, A.: 1981, “The Interaction of Evolutionary and Genetic Theory”, in L. W. Sumner (ed.),Pragmatism and Purpose. Essays Presented to Thomas Goudge, Toronto University Press, Toronto, pp. 207–219.Google Scholar
  43. Ruse, M.: 1987, “Biological Species: Natural Kinds, Individuals, or What?”,British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38, 225–242.Google Scholar
  44. Simpson, G. G.: 1951, “The Species Concept”,Evolution 5, 285–298.Google Scholar
  45. Simpson, G. G.: 1961,Principles of Animal Taxanomy, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  46. Simpson, G. G.: 1980,Why and How. Some Problems and Methods in Historical Biology, Pergamon Press, New York.Google Scholar
  47. Simpson, G. G.: 1982, “Autobiology”, (A review),Quarterly Review of Biology 57, 437–444.Google Scholar
  48. Sokal, R. R. and T. J. Crovello: 1970, “The Biological Species Concept: A Critical Evaluation”,American Naturalist 104, 127–153.Google Scholar
  49. Templeton, A. R.: 1989, “The Meaning of Species and Speciation: A Genetic Perspective”, in D. Otte and J. A. Endler (eds.),Speciation and its Consequences, Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, Mass., pp. 3–27.Google Scholar
  50. White, M. J. D.: 1978,Modes of Speciation, Freeman, San Francisco.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter J. Beurton
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations