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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Talk at University of Toronto suggests an organism can change species during its lifetime. No riots ensue.

A friend draws my attention to this recently given talk by Mohan Matthen, Philosophy Department/IHPST, University of Toronto, Octobewr 1, 2008:
Standard biological and philosophical treatments assume that dramatic genotypic or phenotypic change constitutes instantaneous speciation, and that barring such saltation, speciation is gradual evolutionary change in individual properties. Both propositions appear to be incongruent with standard theoretical perspectives on species themselves, since these perspectives are (a) non-pheneticist, and (b) tend to disregard intermediate cases. After reviewing certain key elements of such perspectives, it is proposed that species-membership is mediated by membership in a population. Species-membership depends, therefore, not on intrinsic characteristics of an organism, but on relationship of an organism to others. A new definition of speciation is proposed in the spirit of this proposal. This definition implies that dramatic change is neither necessary nor sufficient for speciation. It also implies, surprisingly, that an organism can change species during its lifetime.'
Actually, U of T is a pretty decent place for ideas, and usually worth the money. I wouldn't have expected any riots, actually.

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