The species concept for prokaryotes


*Corresponding author. Present address: Laboratori de Microbiologia, Departament de Biologia, Facultat de Ciències, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Crtra. Valldemossa Km 7, 5, E-07071 Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Tel.: +34 971173140; Fax: +34 971173184, E-mail address:


The species concept is a recurrent controversial issue that preoccupies philosophers as well as biologists of all disciplines. Prokaryotic species concept has its own history and results from a series of empirical improvements parallel to the development of the techniques of analysis. Among the microbial taxonomists, there is general agreement that the species concept currently in use is useful, pragmatic and universally applicable within the prokaryotic world. However, this empirically designed concept is not encompassed by any of the, at least, 22 concepts described for eukaryotes. The species could be described as ‘a monophyletic and genomically coherent cluster of individual organisms that show a high degree of overall similarity in many independent characteristics, and is diagnosable by a discriminative phenotypic property’. We suggest to refer it as a phylo-phenetic species concept. Here, we discuss the validity of the concept in use which we believe is more pragmatic in comparison with those concepts described for eukaryotes.