Individuating population lineages: a new genealogical criterion

Abstract

Contemporary biology has inherited two key assumptions from the Modern Synthesis about the nature of population lineages: sexual reproduction is the exemplar for how individuals in population lineages inherit traits from their parents, and random mating is the exemplar for reproductive interaction. While these assumptions have been extremely fruitful for a number of fields, such as population genetics and phylogenetics, they are increasingly unviable for studying the full diversity and evolution of life. I introduce the “mixture” account of population lineages that escapes these assumptions by (1) dissolving the Modern Synthesis’s sharp line separating reproduction and development and (2) characterizing reproductive integration in population lineages by the ephemerality of isolated subgroups rather than random mating. The mixture account provides a single criterion for reproductive integration that accommodates both sexual and asexual reproduction, unifying their treatment under Kevin de Queiroz’s generalized lineage concept of species. The account also provides a new basis for empirically assessing the effect of random mating as an idealization on the empirical adequacy of population genetic models.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The relevance of demarcators for existing views of biological individuality is developed in more detail in (Sterner 2017). Developing the full implications of the demarcator formalism for other conceptions of individuality and lineages (Bouchard 2008; Bapteste and Dupré 2013; O'Malley 2014; Doolittle and Booth 2016) remains a topic for future work.

  2. 2.

    Restricting our attention to relations between entities of the same type serves as a stand-in here for a fully developed theory of inheritance. As defined, production events only track causal responsibility for the existence of an entity, not causal responsibility for its specific properties. We would need a more refined subtype of production event to express the idea that DNA sequences are copied during replication and hence exhibit a stable mapping between the properties of the original strand and its product.

  3. 3.

    See (Clarke 2016) for a critical response to their argument.

  4. 4.

    I put ‘species’ in quotes here to indicate that I’m using the term informally rather than presupposing a particular account of species.

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Acknowledgements

This paper benefitted immensely from Marshall Abram’s commentary at the Central American Philosophical Association meeting in 2015. My thanks also to the referees for their constructive feedback and to Joyce Havstad, Scott Lidgard, Olivier Rieppel, and others who gave feedback on an earlier version at the Field Museum. This research was supported in part by National Science Foundation postdoctoral grant SES-1153114.

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Correspondence to Beckett Sterner.

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Sterner, B. Individuating population lineages: a new genealogical criterion. Biol Philos 32, 683–703 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-017-9580-4

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Keywords

  • Biological species
  • Meta-population
  • Hybridization
  • Darwinian population
  • Biological individuality
  • Neutral model