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Species definitions and conservation: a review and case studies from African mammals

Abstract

The nature of species, especially as applied to large mammals, is of major concern in conservation. Here, we briefly comment on recent thinking in alpha taxonomy, and assert that species are in essence evolutionary lineages, and that the most effective way of recognising them is by their diagnosability, i.e. the so-called Phylogenetic Species Concept. We further assert that the amount of genetic distance is not a relevant datum for distinguishing species, and that the ability to interbreed is not relevant. We consider a few case studies, especially that of the Northern White Rhinoceros Ceratotherium cottoni, and also species in Loxodonta, Giraffa and Oreotragus.

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Acknowledgements

PJT acknowledges the support of the University of Venda, the National Research Foundation and the Department of Science and Technology under the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) on Biodiversity Value and Change within the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve hosted at University of Venda and co-hosted by the Centre for Invasion Biology at University of Stellenbosch.

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Groves, C.P., Cotterill, F.P.D., Gippoliti, S. et al. Species definitions and conservation: a review and case studies from African mammals. Conserv Genet 18, 1247–1256 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-017-0976-0

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Keywords

  • Evolutionary species
  • Phylogenetic species concept
  • Ceratotherium
  • Loxodonta
  • Giraffa
  • Oreotragus