• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What is a species?

Extracts from this document...


What is a species? "Species is a Latin word meaning 'kind' or 'appearance.'" (Campbell and Reece, 2005, p.473). However, clarifying what actually constitutes a species is controversial, as Biologists cannot agree on a specific definition of the word. Species is a term used by humans in attempt to place different 'kinds' of organisms into distinct groups using taxonomy - biological classification. A scientific name in the form of a binomial nomenclature is used to describe these groups. It is always written in italics with the capitalised Latin genus name followed by the species name. Species, therefore, is a fundamental category in taxonomy and important in the scientific naming of organisms. It is therefore essential for us to have a proper understanding of species. However, as a consequence of Biologists being divided in opinion on the nature of species, several concepts have been proposed to define the term. Therefore the answer to the question 'what is a species?' differs depending on which species concept is applied. The biological species concept (BSC) is the most frequently used and widely accepted definition of species. This concept was originally proposed in 1942 by biologist Ernst Mayr. Ernst Mayr stated that "species are groups of interbreeding natural populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups." (Ernst, 1963 cited in Ridley, 2004. pg. ...read more.


The calf was born on Dec. 23 to Kekaimalu, a mix of a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin...The young as-yet unnamed wholphin is one-fourth false killer whale and three fourths Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. (Lee, J.J. (2005)) The BSC does not account for these rare hybrid occurrences, such as the previous example. Some people may argue that this interspecies mating was somehow forced since the animals were in captivity however "there have been reports of wholphins in the wild." (Lee, J.J. (2005)). This natural example of successful hybridization along with a few more selected cases of interspecies mating that occur represent a group in which the term species cannot be defined in terms of interbreeding and hence the BSC cannot be applied. An alternative species concept to BSC is the Morphological Species Concept (MSC). According to this concept, "a species is a community, or a number of related communities, whose distinctive morphological characters are, in the opinion of a competent systematist, sufficiently definite to entitle it, or them, to a specific name" (Regan. (1926)). In other words species are defined as groups of individuals that have many morphological similarities that are clearly distinguishable from other groups. This is how, in practice, taxonomists recognise species. ...read more.


(Oxford Dictionary of Biology (2004)) This concept is not as limited as the BSC since interspecies mating is not excluded. However the PSC has limitations of its own; this concept will tend to result in extreme division of species into many small groups, since variation is present in almost every group of organisms. In conclusion, no specific definition of a species can be given, but in fact there are several, with each depending on what concept is being used. The BSC defines species in terms of interbreeding. The MSC defines species in terms of morphological similarities. PSC defines species in terms of evolutionary history. There are in fact more species concepts but, like the ones mentioned, each concept has faults and no concept can be applied constantly to every situation. Each concept is similar in principle. They all define species as distinct groups that differ according to one particular factor. "No one definition (of species) has as yet satisfied all naturalists; yet every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species." (Darwin, C. (1859)). Darwin wrote this in 1859 yet it is still true today. The definition of species therefore, is the one which best suits the context in which it is being used. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Zoology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

Overall this is a well thought out essay. It has a very clear and logical structure, and covers each of the necessary points. Ideally it would include a few more biological examples, and a slightly deeper thought of how these philosophical concepts actually apply to research science. This, and the heavy reliance on quoting others' work prevent this from being a first class essay. If a definition is very specific then it can be quoted, and of course if something is paraphrased from a single source it should be referenced. But in several places this essay just quotes large bodies of text with no effort to understand or explain them. The student may have read the text and internalised it, but without attempting to put it into her own words, we cannot be sure that she truly grasps the significance. At my (Russell Group) university, this would score 4 stars.

Marked by teacher Rebecca Lewis 03/04/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Zoology essays

  1. If Animals Could Talk

    The owners decided that they wanted to use him to impregnate another horse. They bring the horse to Blue's meadow and let them get used to each other so they can make babies. As soon as the babies were born they took the other horse away from blue.

  2. Examine Jonson's use in Volpone of animal imagery

    I think Jonson's naming of the characters suggests what the play goes on to prove, that human beings can easily reduce themselves to animals as they lose their values through greed. Jonson's naming of the character Volpone, Italian for fox, creates an instant image of the character.

  1. Human Evolution

    At Handar Valley in Ethiopia a slightly more advanced creature was found by Donald Johanson and his researchers. The material found was just over three million years old and includes the famous 'Lucy' whose skeleton was found over 40% complete.

  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of keeping animals in zoos?

    what harm can be done to the animals by keeping them in cages. Zookeepers try their best to keep the animals in good health by cleaning the cages and even washing some of the animals regularly.

  1. The Lion King - Study the opening scenes of the film and describe how ...

    The animals are starting an important journey and the camera follows birds flying across a beautiful waterfall. This gives you the sensation of power as if you are actually flying with the creatures. The animals are travelling towards the sun and the camera zooms in on a large elephant with

  2. 'Why if at all should we treat animals equally with humans?'

    Pain can be felt through every species from a new born baby to a horse as, if you slap a baby it will cry, however you may think if you slap a horse it will also be fine as its got tougher skin, however if you equaled the force of

  1. Discursive essay on evolution.

    This may be a thick coat of fur to help the animal survive the winter or being brightly coloured to attract a mate; the coloured frogs show up on the green grass and are soon eaten. Over time, the environment changes colour from green to yellow as the grass dies.

  2. Discuss the extent to which zoo's can play a role in the conservation of ...

    shortfalls that hinder the extent to which the capacity that zoos contribute to the restoration of endangered species. Personally, I believe that zoos help in keeping animals out of extinction to maintain a wide range of biodiversity, and this is the only reason as to why I, and many others, would support the existence of zoos.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work