Today’s post is prompted by a conversation I had with a man I sometimes see at the local dog park. Early one morning a few weeks ago, while our pooches played, we discussed species concepts. This man expressed his frustration at his biologist friends’ constant efforts to describe and delimit species. This obsession with naming and renaming was a mystery to him, and he thinks it a waste of effort. To paraphrase him: so mistakes were made in the past, but surely now we can just all agree to accept the status quo and refrain from splitting and merging and reclassifying any more species. And if we discover something new, well, if two groups of individuals can interbreed then they are the same species and if they can’t interbreed then they are different species, right?
Except that it’s not quite that simple.