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Figure 1 | Frontiers in Zoology

Figure 1

From: The integrative future of taxonomy

Figure 1

Schematic representation of two approaches of integrative taxonomy. Background yellow, red, and blue colors represent the spectrum of character variation, each dot being an independent evolutionary linage that requires identification and delimitation as separate species. Integration by cumulation (left) identifies species limits with divergence in one or more not necessarily overlapping taxonomic characters (e. g. mtDNA or morphology), whereas the integration by congruence (right) identifies species limits with the intersection of evidence from two or more independent taxonomic characters (e. g. mtDNA plus morphology). Both methods of integration have relevant limitations. The integration by cumulation approach may over-estimate the number of species by identifying distinct species where there is intraspecific character variation only. As an example, conspecific populations can be very distinct in terms of morphology but will be erroneously regarded as distinct species (alpha error or false positive). On the contrary, integration by congruence is a highly stringent approach that might under-estimate the number of species by being unable to detect cryptic or young species (beta error or false negative, represented here by three encircled species among all the undetected ones). Actually, there is a trade-off between the lack of reliability of the species detected by integration by cumulation, and the lower taxonomic resolving power of the integration by congruence.

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