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How many bird species? BSC? PSC?

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"A disagreement over what constitutes a bird species has ruffled the American ornithology community, and a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor is in the middle of the scrum."

"At issue is the notion espoused by UNL’s Robert Zink and others that there are almost twice as many bird species across the globe as widely believed because so many birds have been wrongly classified as belonging to the same species."

"Some bird experts object to Zink’s notion that the globe actually contains about 18,000 species instead of the widely accepted 10,000."

"Kevin Winker, a University of Alaska-Fairbanks professor who has written about the issue, said in an email that Zink and his allies at the American Museum of Natural History in New York “have been beating the drum for a change in the definition of species” for 20 to 30 years."

“In all that time, they have not swayed mainstream ornithology,” Winker said."

“That’s his perception,” Zink said. “There’s been a lot of people who have changed their minds about species.”

"John McCormack, curator of the Moore Laboratory of Zoology at Occidental College in California, said he generally believes that bird species have been undercounted."

Zink’s concept — the phylogenetic species concept — looks for distinguishable differences among groups, either genetic or in appearance, internal or external, in determining whether birds are of different species."

“The prevailing species concept right now is the BSC (biological species concept). ... The PSC folks are the insurgents,” McCormack said in an email."

"Zink said guesswork goes into whether birds in different regions would interbreed if given the chance. But genetic testing proves that some are distinct and haven’t interbred, and they should be considered separate species, he said."

"Cracraft said some argue that it would take a lot of effort to reclassify thousands of kinds of birds. But identifying them properly, he said, is important.

“And we still have a long way to go.”



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