Removing ambiguity from the biological species concept

Mauricio Gonzalez Forero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The biological species concept (BSC) is a common way to define species although it is ambiguous even when strictly applied. I interpret it here syntactically in four different ways and show that one of them is more suitable than previously thought. The first interpretation (fully restricted) produces discrete, non-overlapping biological species with the inconvenience of being inapplicable when there is gradual evolution of reproductive isolation. The second (cohesion relaxed) and fourth (fully relaxed) interpretation are overly unrestricted to be useful. The third interpretation (isolation relaxed) overcomes the problem of gradual evolution of reproductive isolation at the cost of recognizing non-discrete, overlapping biological species. That is, some populations are members of more than one species. Non-discreteness, however, removes hand-waving in infamous difficulties of the BSC such as those with ring species, phyletic species, and syngameons. Moreover, it lets the BSC deal with introgression with no appeal to subjectivity. Therefore, precision in terms underlying the BSC provides an objective and still natural alternative to deal with gradual evolution of reproductive isolation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-80
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number1
Early online date4 Oct 2008
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2009


  • Species problem
  • Axiomatization
  • Interbreeding
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Population


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