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This is still not quite right, but it was exactly this sort of difficulty in defining the concept that helped set Darwin on the path that originally led to Origin.

My understanding is that modern definitions tend to center around the concept of a clade, and acknowledge that the concept of common ancestry is at least as important as deciding exactly when a group is well enough differentiated to be labelled "species".

The concept of species is evidently not clear-cut even today. Darwin's finches, for example have been sorted into species a number of different ways, with terms like "superspecies" "subspecies" and "variety" also being applied. My impression is that this is far from unusual.

In any case, the "interbreeding group" definition appears to be more of a rule of thumb than an official definition.

Disclaimer: I am not a working biologist, and would welcome the input of working biologists

Species not only for use in biology[edit]

The term 'species' is not only used in biology. For example, the term is used in nuclear physics to define a particular isotope or nuclide. Although not connected with an evolution or parentage like in biology, I believe the usage is in general similar, and the definition here should be improved to 1) Create a general broadened definition to include all uses meaning a particular type of a category of objects 2) Add appropriate sub-definitions which clearly define its meaning in various areas. Discussion on how to incorporate this idea is welcome. Disputes to the applicability may also be made, but will not be well received as they likely originate from a framework which is too narrow. Particularly welcome would be information about the etymology within science, which may be interesting but is unknown to me. DAID 03:11, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

Sorry, slightly over-zealous in my first note on this. The definition is already including crystalography. So I think we want to first make a single broad definition which applies to many different sciences, and then under that heading we should define the uses in each particular scientific field. DAID 03:25, 4 December 2009 (UTC)


I am not a working biologist either; by college education I was a mathematician & physicist; but then (I just read) so is Carl Woese so here goes. I think the investigation of when a species is not a subspecies is still changing fast but microbiological methods are causing major revision all over the taxonomy. I get the impression that clades are also out of favour again but the three-way tension between DNA similarity, evolutionary path, and phenotype trait similarities will continue. Unsure whether Wiktionary is the place to mention any of this. IPH 22:05, 30 May 2007 (UTC)iph

The difficulty here are phenomena like ring species, which indicate that, to some extent, it is in all probability impossible to clearly and accurately categorize living organisms based on the classical notion of species. I don't dispute the usefulness of the concept of a species, but it seems to tell us more about human psychology and intellect than the true nature of things. One is basically attempting to clearly and distinctly quantize something which is continuous. In mathematics this has been proven to work, but in biology I think not. Perhaps not worth a long entry on this page, but some mention of scientifically-demonstrated ambiguity and the information that in fact, species is NOT well defined has a place in a dictionary attempting to define terms so as not to give a false impression to readers/users. Of course you are right that DNA is also not classically related to the idea of a species (as it had not been discovered), and may also help to bring rise to a better definition or understanding to the idea of species in the future. DAID 03:23, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

Change of example[edit]

Example wa puma but there were two problems:

  1. Latin binomen given Felis concolor was wrong genus; Wikispecies has no species F. concolor in genus Felis!
  2. English name of cougar is not universally known to English speakers. Wikipedia:Puma says: "The Cougar (Puma concolor), also known by many names including the Puma and the Mountain lion, ..." therefore it is better to exemplify with a famous, universally known species with only one common English name. (I stayed with big cats!)IPH 21:59, 30 May 2007 (UTC)iph

cognates and etýmologhy of spec-[edit]

Are Latin spec- and English show/shew of common descent? Lysdexia 08:09, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

and then Hellènic scop/scep. spec and see are not cognates, yet the latter is still in the translation. How about spy? Talk:-ies Lysdexia 14:05, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

German translation[edit]

The German translation for "species" is not "Gattung", which means "genus", but "Art" or "Spezies". greets

Fixed. Chuck Entz (talk) 12:35, 23 September 2013 (UTC)