Large-Scale Biological Entities and the Evolutionary Process

In the Modern Synthesis, the ontology of species is context-dependent: species are seen as "individuals" at any instant in geological time; through time, species-lineages are class-like entities regularly transforming themselves into other, descendant species. Moreover, at any one instant in time, species are predominantly construed as reproductive communities; through time, they are seen as economic entities, bound together by the joint possession of anatomical similarities among constituent organisms. It is argued that a more complete picture sees species as spatiotemporally bounded historical "individuals", hence as reproductive communities in time as well as space; that species are not economic units; and that a complete evolutionary theory must address large-scale economic units (e.g., populations, communities, regional biotas) as well as large-scale informational units (demes, species, monophyletic taxa), visualizing particular instances of such hierarchically arranged classes as spatiotemporally bounded historical entities -- i.e., as "individuals".
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DOI 10.2307/192526
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