J Syst Evol ›› 2020, Vol. 58 ›› Issue (5): 725-742.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12660

• Review • Previous Articles    

Gen‐morph species concept—A new and integrative species concept for outbreeding organisms

De-Yuan Hong*   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
  • Received:2020-03-18 Accepted:2020-06-04 Online:2020-06-11 Published:2020-09-01


The present article briefly reviewed the prevailing species concepts, especially biological, genetic, evolutionary, phylogenetic, ecological, and several taxonomic species concepts. The former five reflect the properties of species from diverse aspects and in different degrees, while taxonomic species concepts all contain more or less subjective elements, except for Hedberg's taxonomic method (not species concept). So far, there is no species concept that is both theoretically rational and practically operable. The present article outlined recent studies on the genus Paeonia L. (Paeoniaceae) in biology, particularly in morphology, biogeography, molecular phylogeny, and reproductive behavior, which provided insight into the relationship between variation of morphological characteristics and phylogeny. Taking the study on Paeonia L. as a case, referring to studies on some other plant groups, and incorporating the merits of the prevailing species concepts into our consideration, “gen‐morph species concept” is proposed here formally as new for outbreeding organisms. The new species concept has three special features: (i) a bridge linking morphological aspect with genetic and other aspects of species; (ii) proposal of a concrete morphological criterion for species definition, and (iii) considering quantitative and qualitative characteristics as equally valuable for species definition and introducing statistics into the concept to handle such characteristics. Therefore, the gen‐morph species concept is an integrative species concept, both theoretically objective and practically operable.

Key words: continuous or discontinuous variations, cross-compatible, gene flow, isolation, lineage, monophyly, outbreeding organism, Paeonia L., statistics