Evolutionary Biology Online Journal Club


Paper summary – de Queiroz 1998

I managed to volunteer myself to lead the first discussion for Season 2, so thought I would write down a brief summary of the paper and a few of my thoughts on it as a spur to conversation. If you haven’t caught up with it, here’s the details of the paper we decided on for the first session

de Queiroz, Kevin. “The general lineage concept of species, species criteria, and the process of speciation.” (1998). in  Howard, Daniel J., and Stewart H. Berlocher, eds. Endless forms: species and speciation. Oxford University Press, USA, 1998.

There are many species concepts, but one definition?

Everyone who has done an undergraduate course in biology has had the “species concept” discussion. Although species are fundamental units in biodiversity, and often the natural unit of comparison in evolutinary and ecological studies, bioloigsts spend quite a lot of their time arguing about exactly what constitutes a species. John Wilkins, who knows a thing or two about the debate, lists 26 species concepts that have at least one supporter. de Queiroz provides a summary of the more popular concepts, and the evidence they use to delimit species.

The huge number of species concepts available seems at first to be a barrier to the important tasks of delimiting species (alpha taxonomy) and working our how they came to be (the study of speciation). But, de Quieroz argues, all these concepts can be shown to share a single definition of species, and only differ in determining the types of evidence we should look to in deciding if a population fits that definition:

All modern species definitions either explicitly or implicitly equate species with segments of population-level evolutionary lineages.

For de Quieroz a species is a population, held together by some force, evolving through time, and all the existing species concepts already recognise this idea. In sexually reproducing organisms, it is reproduction itself that can pull partially-isolated populations in a single direction. de Quieroz doesn’t suggest similar forces that might apply in asexual species, but notes existing species concepts for these species presume such forces exist.

Linking species status to the speciation process

For me, the strongest and most interesting part of the general lineage species concept (GLSC) is the way it brings what we know about speciation, the study of the origin of species, into taxonomy, the process by which we identify and describe species. de Quieroz illustrates a hypothetical speciation proceeds something like this (this is actually my version, lifted from a powerpoint slide, so blame me if it’s misleading):

The point here is not the speciation will allow follow this path, but that speciation is fundamentally a process  not an event, and the criteria required to fulfill various species concepts will accrue during that process. The choice of a species concept may depend on exactly what is being studied, and a more general approach to taxonomy should take all the evidence available.

Some thoughts

This paper is now 15 years old, and the ideas it contains have had a large impact on both speciation research and taxonomy (it’s been cited almost 600 times). I’m sure we’ll have no shortage of things to talk about, but here’s a couple of things that nag away at me when I think the GLSC is the answer to all our problems

Applicability outside of living metazoans
I only work on animals that are alive today. Can the GLSC be applied to asexual populations, or species that arise from hybridisation rather than simple splitting of lineages?Can we apply the GLSC to extinct species, where it’s very hard to know anything about the populations  from which fossils come, and members of the same lineage could conceivably be separated by millions of years of evolution?
Have we really embraced the GLSC
For me,one of the major lessons of the GLSC should be to stop fighting over th One True Species Concept, and instead focus on gathering evidence that allows us to determine if populations are evolving independently. This idea is paid a lot of lip-service, but in practice species delimitation studies rely heavily on phylogenetic and population genetic methods. Is this really integrative?


Information for the first meeting – and some exciting news!

Hello everyone! Hope you’re all as excited as I am for our first meeting a week from now! So here are some important information for us to get ready:

  • As mentioned earlier, we’ll be reading the paper by Kevin de Queiroz: “The general lineage concept of species, species criteria, and the process of speciation: A conceptual unification and terminological recommendations”. if you haven’t yet, you can download the paper here (thanks everyone who sent it to me!)
  • Our meeting time will be Monday February 4th at 4:30PM EST. I’ll probably be connected a little earlier to make sure everything is working, because…
  • Shindig.com has been SUPER AWESOME and has decided to host our journal club! I’m not sure if they’ll let us use their platform for the whole semester or just for this first meeting, but in any case, I’m really excited! Shindig is an amazing platform for videochat that will allow us to surpass the 10 people limit imposed by Google+ Hangouts. If you saw the “Carl Zimmer & Ed Yong talk science” event last year, you know how awesome it is. Anyone can join, even just to watch, and up to 20 people can be active in a conversation, which should be more than enough for our needs! Everything should work out pretty much as usual: no need to install any software, just go to the event page at the time of the meeting and everything should work smoothly from there.
  • On the event page, there’s an RSVP button. If you’re planning on joining us for the discussion, it’s probably a good idea to RSVP – it will probably help the folks at Shindig to have an idea of the demand and the server requirements for it to run smoothly.

I really want to thank Morgan Jackson for suggesting and contacting the people at Shindig, and Yusang Lee from Shindig who was extremely prompt and helpful.   If you’re not familiar with Shindig and want to get an idea of what to expect, here are a couple of useful links:

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#EBJClub Season 2: Topic & Date decision

OK, so it seems that we’ll be discussing papers on speciation / evolutionary radiations this season! While discussing a broad-topic book like the one Devin suggested would be really cool, and something we should definitely try soon (either Fall or maybe a summer session?) I am very excited both for the topic and the people that have been expressing interest in joining the discussion. Our group might end up being super diverse and having ecologists, taxonomists, molecular biologists, etc, which will bring an array of interesting perspectives to the discussion!

So the best day for everyone seems to be Monday, but I’m a bit confused by the time, because they are half-hour slots but we’ll probably need a full hour, and many of you marked 5:00PM but not 5:30PM – I’m not sure if I should interpret that as meaning that an hour-long discussion starting at 5PM EST and going until 6PM EST wouldn’t work? In any case, almost everyone that did mark times around that slot marked both the 4:30 and 5PM slots, so we will be meeting Mondays, either at 4:30 or 5PM 🙂 (those of you that marked the 5PM slot but not the 5:30PM, let us know in the comments if that’s because you really can’t do the 5-6 hour. If we can start at 5 that would make my life a lot easier 😉 )

In the comments section, I suggested we start off with the 1998 paper by Kevin de Queiroz titled “The general lineage concept of species, species criteria, and the process of speciation: A conceptual unification and terminological recommendations”. It’s actually a chapter from the book “Endless Forms: Species and Speciation” (I have the PDF if you can’t find it, though it’s a crappy scan, if someone has a high-quality one let us know!), so it’s a bit long. I must confess that I’m not really a specialist in speciation so I don’t know if this is a good start, but it seemed so to me when I decided to start studying the topic. But I’m happy to take suggestions. We’ll decide on the further readings after the first meeting.

To give us enough time to read the 20-so pages of the chapter, I suggest we have our first meeting on Monday February 4th. How does that sound? It also seems that we might have more than 10 people joining for the discussion (which is the limit for Google+ Hangouts). Morgan and I have been looking at other options, so stay tuned. But in any case, make sure you encircle us on Google+ – it’s the only way we can invite you to the videochat.

Any suggestions or comments below!


Roll Call for #EBJClub Season 2!

UPDATE: Anyone who’s new to participating–excellent! Welcome aboard! if you plan on joining the discussions, please introduce yourself in the comments section and make sure to add yourself to the calendar (link below) before you vote on the poll, so we can figure out the most preferred time/format among those who are likely to participate!

Alright, let’s get started!

Seems from the discussion in the last post that most are keen on selecting a topic and sticking with it for the semester. I think having that structure is a great idea. Two topics were suggested:

Personally I think both are awesome so as always I’m going to leave it to you guys to decide 🙂 There was an initial concern that the book might be expensive and would require time to order, receive, etc. but it seems like there’s a PDF of it floating around (which I’ll refrain from linking because I’m not entirely sure it’s a legal  copy to distribute…). Also the kindle version on Amazon is not that expensive (link above) and is delivered immediately, so that shouldn’t be that big of an issue. In any case, the poll is below!

Meeting times. We also need to decide what times would work best for most of us. I have created a calendar where you can mark your availability / what times would work out best. (Times are in EST timezone, so use a converter like this one to find out how your time zone fits in)

How does it work? We will meet every other week to discuss a paper/chapter using Google+ Hangouts (so make sure you “encircle” us on Google+ so you can be invited for the video chats) and a text chat server. Videos are available during and after discussions.

OK! So who’s in?


EvoBio Journal Club: First season in review, and what to expect from next season

Hi Everyone!

So I figured now would be a good time to sit back and review how this Fall 2012 season of the #EBJClub went, and ponder about how we should do things in 2013. So here are some cool numbers:

  • The EBJClub page had a total of 29 posts which brought 3,529 views and 112 comments. Not bad – and I still think we could have gotten even more, but unfortunately our most heated discussion, which prompted a post to keep it going, only came by the end of the semester, when everyone was swamped!
  • We met a total of five times, with the videos available for future reference. The youtube videos have attracted 223 views.
  • An average of eight people joined in for each discussion. As expected, numbers started high in the first couple meetings and steadily declined, but we were still strong and steady with six participants on the last couple meetings, which were great discussions!
  • This is the statistics I am most proud of and happy about: Participants included undergraduates, masters students, PhD students, and postdocs from four different countries and about 10 different states – and that’s not counting the text-only participants!

Therefore, I think it was a very successful experiment! I learned a lot and enjoyed as much, and hope you guys share the enthusiasm. I loved it and hope we can keep it going for the next semester!

But wait – the best is yet to come!

We have some special ideas for the “next season” of the EBJClub which, if pan out, will make it an even more interesting experience overall! So now is the time to start thinking about putting things together and planning how we think it will work best. As I said above, I think it was a very successful experiment, but an experiment nonetheless. Some things worked great, others not so well. So now is the time I’d like to hear from you! What did you think? How can we make it even better? Are you in for next semester? Here are a couple things I have in mind:

  • I think it will work better if we change the way we choose papers. The voting-every-week-from-a-couple-suggestions was nice, but I think we may have missed on some cool papers to discuss (for example those that came out after we made our list) and passed on some nice readings from our own list. Also, it was a lot of work to manage on my own. So we can either change the system, or take some volunteers to help out on the organization.
  • One suggestion was to have one person responsible for choosing each week’s reading. I think it’s a nice suggestion, but I fear it might make people uncomfortable to join in mid-season. Also, it would require a certain “commitment” from a core group of people to participate throughout the entire season.
  • Another suggestion was to choose a specific topic/book to read over the semester. This works really well for ournal clubs, and personally I quite like the consistent-readings format. But we are a very diverse group – one of our strong points, IMHO -, and it will be hard to find something everyone is interested in for a whole-semester commitment.
  • Should we maintain an every-other-week meeting schedule? Meet more often? Meet less often?

So, hope everyone’s as excited as I am! Who’s in for Evolutionary Biology Journal Club Season 2? What are your suggestions on how to make it even better?