Some critters are so small, they can’t make a species.

That’s the argument Laboratory Equipment describes some mathematical taxonomists (there’s a discipline for you) are making – claiming that some kinds of plankton are individually so small and so *weird*, they’re impossible to divide into different species:

A new mathematical theory from the Univ. of Bath is challenging one of the most basic ideas of biology: that the concept of a “species” applies to all creatures.

In a paper, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biology, an interdisciplinary team of scientists, including mathematician Tim Rogers, outline findings from a recent study into the mathematics of biodiversity.

Small organisms, measuring less than one millimeter, form the bedrock of the global ecosystem and their diversity is crucial for ecological health and stability. With recent advances in genetic sequencing technology, ecologists had hoped to be able to count the number of different species of such creatures by looking for groups of organisms with similar genomes.

The new results suggest that classifying very small creatures from extremely large populations into species may actually be impossible.

So many mutants over so many individuals, you can’t really say one on this end is the same thing as one on the other.