Wiley, Edward O., III Natural History Museum, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
Last reviewed:June 2020
Show previous versions
- Concepts and theories
- Types of species concepts
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The idea that the diversity of life is divisible into a finite number of definable species. A species is a taxonomic category ranking immediately below a genus and including closely related, morphologically similar individuals that actually or potentially interbreed. Species concepts help to explain what a species is and how it came into being (see illustration). In general, species concepts grow out of attempts to understand the very nature of biological organization above the level of the individual organism. There are two basic questions: (1) What does it mean to be a species in general? Do all species have certain characteristics, such as forming genealogical lineages, just as all atoms have certain characteristics, such as the ability to undergo chemical reactions? (2) What does it mean to be a particular species? The first question addresses species concepts. The second question addresses how to apply a species concept to living organisms of the world. Does the name Homo sapiens apply to a group of organisms existing in nature? If so, does it belong, as a member, to a natural kind that can be characterized by some set of properties? The difference between the questions of what it is to be a species in general versus what does it mean to be a particular species represents the dividing line between what it is to be a natural kind and what it is to be a natural individual. See also: Biodiversity; Speciation
The content above is only an excerpt.
for your institution. Subscribe
To learn more about subscribing to AccessScience, or to request a no-risk trial of this award-winning scientific reference for your institution, fill in your information and a member of our Sales Team will contact you as soon as possible.
to your librarian. Recommend
Let your librarian know about the award-winning gateway to the most trustworthy and accurate scientific information.
AccessScience provides the most accurate and trustworthy scientific information available.
Recognized as an award-winning gateway to scientific knowledge, AccessScience is an amazing online resource that contains high-quality reference material written specifically for students. Contributors include more than 10,000 highly qualified scientists and 46 Nobel Prize winners.
MORE THAN 8700 articles covering all major scientific disciplines and encompassing the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology and McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology
115,000-PLUS definitions from the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms
3000 biographies of notable scientific figures
MORE THAN 19,000 downloadable images and animations illustrating key topics
ENGAGING VIDEOS highlighting the life and work of award-winning scientists
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY and additional readings to guide students to deeper understanding and research
LINKS TO CITABLE LITERATURE help students expand their knowledge using primary sources of information