Chronospecies delimitation

In short, we shall have to treat species in the same manner as those naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not be a cheering prospect; but we shall at least be free from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term species.” (Charles Darwin, 1859, chapter XIV, p.485) 

Temporal species delimitation

As considered by Jarvis (2016) and recommended for allopatric species by Price (2008) and Hudson & Price (2014), evolutionary age should be the sole criterion for species delimitation. 

It is also the underlying principle of species detection by means of COI barcoding, which is based on the fact that the mitochondrial COXI gene (like CYTB and ND2has evolved with relatively homogeneous base substitution rates, at least in passerines (Nguyen & Ho, 2016). 

Species status might be attributed to taxa that are at least two million years old (following Avise et al., 1998; Price, 2008, and Hudson & Price, 2014). Likewise, Alström et al. (2018b, Fig.2) included a two-million-years cutoff in their locustellid timetree to distinguish intra- from interspecific divergences. Species that are delimited by temporal thresholds may be referred to as “chronospecies”. It should be noted, however, that the term has previously been used by palaeontologists with a slightly different meaning (Stanley, 1978). 

Arguments against a universal age-based yardstick approach for species delimitation have been put forward (e.g. Halley et al., 2017), but I do not consider the arguments particularly convincing. 


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