Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 431–441 | Cite as

The Why and How of Species

  • Ernst Mayr


The biological species concept deals both with the meaning of the sexual species as a harmonious gene pool and with its protection against deleterious outbreeding (effected by isolating mechanisms). According to the Darwin-Muller-Mayr theory isolating mechanisms are acquired by incipient species during alloparty. Isolating mechanisms are not the result of ad hoc selection, but of a change of function of properties acquired during the preceding isolation of the incipient species. The role of behavioral properties (“recognition”) among the isolating mechanisms has long been recognized and described by naturalists but was rejected as basis of a species definition for a number of valid reasons.

Key words

Biological species recognition concept isolating mechanisms Darwin-Muller-Mayr theory 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernst Mayr
    • 1
  1. 1.Museum of Comparative ZoologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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