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Abstract

At least three different issues are commonly referred to by the term “the species problem”: one concerns the necessary properties of species, a second the processes responsible for the existence of species, and a third methods for inferring species limits. Solutions have recently been proposed to the first two problems, which are conceptual in nature (the third is methodological). The first equates species with metapopulation lineages and proposes that existence as a separately evolving metapopulation lineage be considered the only necessary property of species. The second views the species category as a cluster concept and proposes that no single process or set of processes be considered necessary for the existence of species. Although these two solutions have been portrayed as being in conflict, they are, in fact, highly compatible. Moreover, the proposals in question clarify the problem concerning methods for inferring the limits of species, which has for a long time been confused with the problem concerning the necessary properties of species. Together these proposals provide the opportunity for biology to move beyond debates about the definition of the species category and focus on estimating the boundaries and numbers of species as well as studying the diverse processes involved in their origin and persistence. BioEssays 27:1263–1269, 2005. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.