The endangered species act, according to Stephen O’Brien, identifies and protects plant and animal species whose population is critically threatened. The three categories of biological taxa that the Act tries to protect include species, subspecies, and population. According to O’Brien, the meaning of terms such as taxonomy, and the occurrence of hybridization between species, has led to disaggreements by government officials.
Scientist’s use molecular genetics to investigate many of the questionable endangered species. The problem according to O’brien is that the molecular genetics results have interpretation difficulties. In his article, “Bureaucratic mischief: recognizing endangered species and subspecies,” O’Brien summarized the molecular report on these four endangered groups: the Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi), the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the red wolf (Canis rufus), and the dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens). The four examples represent the critical role taxonomy plays in the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, and the power of molecular genetic data.
To define species and subspecies, O’Brien went with the Biological Species Concept (BSC), which defined a species as “groups of actually or potentially interbreeding populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups.”
Recommendations for the four endangered species were given according to O’Briens interpretation of The Hybrid Policy of the Endangered Species Act. Which he believes should discourage hybridization between species, but shouldn’t be applied to subspecies because they interbreed freely in nature.