Patterns and Populations

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Science  31 Aug 1962:
Vol. 137, Issue 3531, pp. 652-657
DOI: 10.1126/science.137.3531.652


In summary, then, we would like to suggest that in broad investigations of the patterns of interaction and relationship among organisms the artificial and stultifying fragmentation of population biology into divisions such as taxonomy, population genetics, and ecology should be ignored. Care also should be taken to scrutinize current concepts such as "species," "niche," and "community." If some emergent patterns seem to correspond to a great degree with these concepts, then the concepts may be given operational definitions and the labels should be retained. If there is no such correspondence, then the concepts will have outlived their usefulness and should be discarded.

The basic units of population biology are not communities, species, or even populations, but individual organisms (32). In populations, variation, growth, genetic equilibria, selection, behavior, and so on are not "things" but relationships. Therefore, what is of interes in population biology is the pattern in which organisms are related in space and time (33).