Re: Subspecies vs. species?
In a message dated 1/22/99 9:36:06 PM Eastern Standard Time, StellrJ@aol.com
<< In a message dated 1/13/99 6:59:36 AM Pacific Standard Time, MOTO_DO@t-
> What I ever want to know is how is a subspecies defined? No botanist I
> asked gave me a sharp definition. Or is it only a point of view?
In large part, subspecies are just points of view. Generally, subspecies
correspond with particular populations of a species, separated, for example,
geographically, or on the basis of minor characteristics. In general, I do
not use subspecies at all, but speak only on the species level, as all
subspecies can successfully interbreed anyway. Subspecies are useful
primarily by taxonomic specialists, and in some cases, by preservationists
(the case of the Mexican wolf comes to mind).
Were it only that simple! Species are no more nor less points of view than are
subspecific taxa. Taxonomy is only a "filing system" for reference and is
fully subject to the whims of the individual systematist. It can be so chaotic
that not even a specific designation is easily defensible - one worker's
species could be another's subgenus! As to the mythology of species being
segregated by fertility barriers - tain't true! Some can produce infertile
hybrids when crossed like the mule (horse X donkey) or the tiglon (lion X
tiger: I think no fertile offspring have been reported from that cross!) but
fully fertile crosses occur between American bison and Old World cattle
The best you as gardeners can do is to follow the recommendations of accepted
authorities as they research their specialized fields - their work is usually
reviewed by peers. Eventually one school of opinion will become predominant -
UNTIL THE NEXT MAJOR STUDY COMES ALONG!
Jim Langhammer Royal Oak, MI