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Re: Perfect Organisms

In a message dated 05/09/2000 8:10:15 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
StellrJ@aol.com writes:

<< Hmmm...the closest thing I can think of to this in actual practice is the
 breed standard for purebred animals.  Of course, no living Havana Brown cat
 ever matches perfectly the breed standard; it is judged by how closely it
 approaches that standard.  The question is, does anything like this occur
 in talking of species?  What I mean is, given the description of, say,
 Philodendron bipinnatifidum, do we compare a given specimen of that species
 to the decription, and judge how closely it approaches the "standard"?

And with that question you reveal what few people realize - a species is not
a real entity but a STANDARD based upon the formal types designated at the
time the name was published. It can get complicated because exceptions can
occur (e.g., if the original types become "lost" over time) but a species is
ONLY the holotype and the paratypes. From that time forward, specimens are
compared to those types and an arbitrary decision is made as to which named
species, if any, an "unknown" belongs to. Variations are legion so "best
guesses" are all that is possible!

    Jim Langhammer

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