Defining what constitutes a ‘new’ species isn’t straightforward

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Even at this time of rapid extinction, there are many species to be discovered, but we need to take care over what we mean when referring to “new species”, says Penny Sarchet

Life


| Columnist

21 September 2022

Mint Images Limited/Alamy

ONE thing I will admit to being quite pedantic about in my job as an editor is policing the use of the phrase “new species”. It isn’t because I don’t like the concept – there are few things I find more exciting than a newly described organism we didn’t know about before. It is because there are so many ways to interpret – and misinterpret – the idea of a new species. But rather than this being a thorny issue worth avoiding, it is actually a fun mess of a problem that takes us to the core of many interesting issues in biology. …

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