Prototypical Reasoning About Species and the Species Problem

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Biological Theory, ISSN: 1555-5542, Vol: 10, Issue: 4, Page: 289-300

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Yuichi Amitani
Springer Nature
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The species problem is often described as the abundance of conflicting definitions of 'species', such as the biological species concept and phylogenetic species concepts. But biologists understand the notion of species in a nondefinitional as well as a definitional way. In this article I argue that when they understand 'species' without a definition in their mind, their understanding is often mediated by the notion of 'good species', or prototypical species, as the idea of "prototype" is explicated in cognitive psychology. This distinction helps us make sense of several puzzling phenomena regarding biologists' dealing with species, such as the fact that in everyday research, biologists often behave as if the species problem is solved, while they should be fully aware that it is not. I also briefly discuss implications of this finding, including that some extant attempts to answer what the nature of species is have an inadequate assumption about how the notion of species is represented in biologists' minds.

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