Species concepts and species delimitation employing molecular data
Almir Pepato, Pavel Klimov
Species are fundamental units in evolutionary biology, ecology, and systematics. It is common sense that life forms are not morphological and genetically continuous, but occur in groups that we usually refer to as “species”. At same time, objective species delimitation is often blurred; since it is the product of the long chain of descent that we call evolution. What are species? Are they real entities with well-defined properties or arbitrary human constructs, useful only for operational purposes? The answer to this question is not only purely academic, but it also has direct consequences for biodiversity conservation. For example, biodiversity loss can occur if a conservation program underestimates the number of species.
In this course, we will discuss philosophical, conceptual, and practical issues related to species concepts and their implication for ecological studies and conservation. For inferring boundaries between species, we will use underlying assumptions of population genetics and recently developed approaches, such as multi-species coalescence. The course will offer hands-on sessions which will help with learning about leading species delimitation programs (GMYC, BPP, STACEY, *BEAST, etc).