Many authors, including paleobiologists, cladists and so on, adopt a nested hierarchical viewpoint to examine the relationships among different levels of biological organization. Furthermore, species are often considered to be unique entities in functioning evolutionary processes and one of the individuals forming a nested hierarchy. I have attempted to show that such a hierarchical view is inadequate in evolutionary biology. We should define units depending on what we are trying to explain. Units that play an important role in evolution and ecology do not necessarily form a nested hierarchy. Also the relationships among genealogies at different levels are not simply nested. I have attempted to distinguish the different characteristics of passages when they are used for different purposes of explanation. In my analysis, species and monophyletic taxa cannot be uniquely defined as single units that function in ecological and evolutionary processes. The view discussed in this paper may provide a more general basis for testing competing theories in evolution, and provide new insights for future empirical studies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- History and Philosophy of Science