Species and Speciation

Conceptual Issues and Their Relevance for Primate Evolutionary Biology
  • William H. Kimbel
  • Lawrence B. Martin
Part of the Advances in Primatology book series (AIPR)


When confronted with the bewildering array of life forms, whether living or extinct, the evolutionary scientist must attempt to create order out of apparent chaos before addressing any other of the myriad questions that stem from a dedication to understanding the organic world. As “the lowest level of genuine discontinuity above the level of the individual [organism]” (Mayr, 1982, p. 251), the species is the basic unit of evolutionary diversity. One would think, therefore, that there is a large degree of unanimity regarding the nature of the species and the role it plays in evolutionary theory. But this is not the case. As amply illustrated by the contributions to this book, there remains a great deal of disagreement on the so-called “species problem.” Questions such as (1) what are species in the context of evolutionary theory, (2) what processes are responsible for species’ origins (and extinctions), and (3) what role do species play in evolution over geological time have occupied the center of debate among evolutionary biologists for decades, and the discussion shows no signs of abatement as we close in on the millennium.


Fossil Record Reproductive Isolation Primate Species Hybrid Zone Species Concept 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • William H. Kimbel
    • 1
  • Lawrence B. Martin
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Human OriginsBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Anthropology and Anatomical SciencesState University of New York at Stony BrookStony BrookUSA

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