The reality of Drosanthemum micans L.

Donald A. Levin (2000) quotes Raven, Berlin and Breedlove (1971), who wrote…“our system of names appears to achieve a reality which it does not in fact possess”.  I find this a curious quote, as Levin was discussing species concepts and we could ask if species themselves have any reality.  There is a lack of a universal definition for the word “species” and I find the recurring reference to “concept” as related to the word, very confusing.  Why should the species be a concept, subject to individual interpretation?  This is of course if they have no reality and we each create our own.  How useful is this for science?  Donald goes on to generate his own “species concept” in which he proposes…“that each species has a unique way of living in and relating to the environment and has a unique genetic system…”, and he refers to this as the eco-genetic species concept. (But still we do not know what he means by “species”.)   He says that the ecological properties of such species are not uniform within the species and thus not equivalent to the taxonomic properties of species, “which are chosen because they are conservative and stable attributes”.  It would be interesting to know just what he means by “taxonomic properties” and I presume he means primarily morphological characters.  Certainly there must be taxonomists who utilized or have utilized ecological facets to decide on their species.  It must also be recognized that the taxonomist is confined to the material at his disposal for examination and decision making.

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