A critical appraisal of the meaning and diagnosability of cryptic evolutionary diversity, and its implications for conservation in the face of climate change Chapter uri icon


  • © The Systematics Association 2011. Accurate species delimitation is a foundational assumption of biological research. It is especially relevant to conservation, because species names are the currency for conservation policy. Cryptic species are species that are deeply genetically divergent from other such lineages, but that have escaped detection and description because they lack obvious morphological discontinuities. They are not necessarily closely related. Genetic data have revealed surprising amounts of cryptic diversity, which has provoked numerous criticisms concerning their taxonomic recognition and relevance to conservation. I critically examine these and other concerns in the context of a hypothetico-deductive framework (HDF) for species taxonomy and systematics with respect to cryptic species recognition, claims about the relative usefulness of morphological versus genetic data for species delimitation, and the kinds of inferential errors that attach to the process of inferring species boundaries. The balance of the chapter shows that the description of cryptic diversity is an important enterprise and considers its implications for conservation biology, especially in the context of global warming.

author list (cited authors)

  • Bernardo, J.

citation count

  • 28

Book Title

  • Climate Change, Ecology and Systematics

publication date

  • January 2009