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Species delimitations – not ‘only descriptive’

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Species descriptions as well as all other kinds of species delimitations within revisionary work are not ‘only descriptive’, as is often stated, but include several genuinely scientific, i.e. potentially falsifiable hypotheses: (1) The specimens under study represent a new or so far incorrectly defined species; (2) the phylogenetic position of the newly defined species; (3) descriptive terms, which are themselves hypotheses of homology (orthology) and/or function, regardless of whether they are of phenotypic or genotypic nature. Accordingly, species delimitations are genuine scientific hypotheses and thus should be cited in the same way as regularly done with all other previous scientific hypotheses on which a paper is based.

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This contribution is based on several lectures I presented during the past ten years on various occasions, the last one during the 52nd Phylogenetic Symposium in Munich, November 2010. I thank all my discussion opponents, who have thus helped to shape this paper. I am also grateful to two anonymous referees who gave helpful advice and comments on the draft of this paper, and to the editors for polishing the language.

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Correspondence to Gerhard Haszprunar.

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Haszprunar, G. Species delimitations – not ‘only descriptive’. Org Divers Evol 11, 249–252 (2011).

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