With my new-found access to this wide cross-section of people knowledgeable about animals, I want to get your opinions on a topic that I have often pondered and debated with my brother. (He's an evolutionary biologist; I'm a computer programmer.) That topic is my belief that scientists tend to split species too often. I'm new to the forum, so please tell me if this topic is not appropriate or if I should have put it in a different section. "Wildlife" seemed like the closest fit. With my interest in zoos and birding, I have often contemplating the lumping and splitting of species. It seems to me that the trend lately has been to split, and DNA testing is usually cited as the justification for the split. However, with my cynical nature, I have to question some of this. Scientists trying to build a reputation for themselves can do so faster by publishing an article that says, "the people before me were wrong; here's how it really is...." If they do a study that merely confirms a previously-held belief, they are less likely to get published or noticed. Now don't get me wrong - I hold scientists in high regard, and I believe that a higher percentage of scientists are ethical than of the general population. I just think that subconsciously, people are more likely to look for a reason to change than to look for a reason to stay the same. The two pairs of species I tend to use as examples in these discussions are Tufted Titmouse/Black-crested Titmouse and Sumatran/Bornean Orangutan. The titmice are visually identical except one has a black crest and the other has a black spot between the eyes. In the narrow band where they overlap (and where I happen to live), they hybridize readily. Their vocalizations are similar enough that I cannot tell them apart, although I am not trained in what I should listen for. But since this is a zoo forum, let's focus on the orangs. Ten years ago when I first started learning about taxonomy, most sources I found listed orangutans as a single species with two subspecies - Bornean and Sumatran. Nowadays, every current source I've found lists them as separate species. The idea of some level of separation makes sense given that they live on separate islands and never mix in the wild, so they have evolved separately for a long time. But full species status does not make sense to me. In captivity, they readily breed and have fertile offspring. In the wild, if we took a bunch of Borneans and dropped them into the Sumatran forest, I assume they would mix in and happily make hybrid babies. They even look alike to me. I've seen diagrams showing how the adult males differ, but not once have I been able to see the differences in live animals. Not too long ago I stood in a zoo that had both side-by-side, and I couldn't see the differences. Perhaps that's because most captive orangutans are likely hybrids and I have had no exposure to pure-breeds. So I am interested in your opinions on a few things: 1. Specifically with orangutans, do you think separate species are warranted, and are they visibly distinguishable to you? 2. How much weight should genetic testing have in determining speciation vs. other factors such as ability to produce fertile offspring? What other factors should be considered? 3. Do you agree that the trend is to split, or are you noticing a considerable amount of lumping lately that I have missed? 4. Other than the recent developments in DNA testing and my cynical view that people look for change, are there other factors that are driving the splitting trend?