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The species in primatology


  • Colin Groves

  • Colin Groves earned his Ph.D. at London University and spent two years as a postdoc at the University of California (Berkeley), then four years as Demonstrator in Physical Anthropology at Cambridge University. He has been working in the School of Archaeology & Anthropology in the Australian National University (Canberra) since 1974. His work on primates and other mammals chiefly focuses on their taxonomy. Dr, Groves has done field work on primates and other mammals in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Iran, India, and Indonesia; he has also worked on paleoanthropology and has studied most of the original material. At first a devotee of the Biological Species Concept and the polytypic species, during the 1990s he came to the conclusion that this concept is unworkable and, at first reluctantly and half-heartedly, moved on to work with the Phylogenetic Species Concept. E-mail:


Biologists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries all bandied about the term “species,” but very rarely actually said what they meant by it. Often, however, one can get inside their thinking by piecing together some of their remarks. One of the most nearly explicit-appropriately, for the man who wrote a book called The Origin of Species – was Charles Darwin[1]: “Practically, when a naturalist can unite two forms together by others having intermediate characters, he treats the one as a variety of the other… He later translated this into evolutionary terms: “Hereafter, we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is, that the latter are known, or believed, to be connected at the present day by intermediate gradations, whereas species were formerly thus connected”1:484-5