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Species : Definition ,Types, and History

Jul 7, 2022

An Overview 

What is a species? A species is a basic unit of categorisation and taxonomic order of a creature, as well as a unit of biodiversity in biology. A species is frequently described as the biggest group of creatures in which any two individuals of the right gender may create feasible progeny, usually by sexual intercourse. Species definition in biology can also be classified by their karyotype, DNA sequence, appearance, behaviour, or ecological niche. Furthermore, because fossil procreation cannot be studied, palaeontologists employ the idea of chronospecies.

All species (excluding viruses) have a two-part name, a “binomial.” The genus to which the species pertains is the first part of a binomial. The second portion is known as the particular name or epithet. For illustration, Boa constrictor is a species of the genus Boa, with the species epithet being constrictor.



From Aristotle’s time until the 18th century, nobody knew what a species was. Species were viewed as stable categories that could be ordered in a hierarchy, the grand chain of being. Biologists realised in the nineteenth century that given enough time, organisms might develop. On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin’s 1859 book, demonstrated what a species is and how species might evolve through natural selection. This understanding of species meaning was considerably expanded in the twentieth century through genetics and demographic ecology. 

According to the species’ meaning in biology, mutations and recombination cause genetic variety, and organisms are migratory, resulting in geographical isolation and genetic variation under various selection pressures. Horizontal gene transfer allows genes to be transmitted across species; hybridisation and polyploidy allow new species to emerge quickly, and species can fall extinct for various causes.


Species Definition Biology

The meaning species is frequently described as the biggest group of creatures where any two entities of the opposite sexes or mating types may produce viable progeny, usually by sexual reproduction. Species definition can also be explained by their DNA sequence, karyotype, appearance, behaviour, or ecological niche.

Types of Species 

Species are categorised into five categories based on their importance in the environment and conservation organisations.

  1. Priority Species
  2. Keystone Species
  3. Indicator Species
  4. Flagship Species
  5. Umbrella Species
  6. Priority Species 

The words’ flagship’ and ‘keystone’ are defined consistently throughout the conservation community. Priority species, on the other hand, is a word coined by the World Wide Fund (WWF) to communicate with management.

WWF selects a priority species, which may be a flagship or keystone species, to symbolise a region’s ecological balance.


1. Priority Species 

A priority species is one on whom the WWF would take action to enhance or restore ecological equilibrium. The WWF has identified ten priority species groupings as follows:

  • Bears (e.g. Giant Pandas)
  • Cetaceans (e.g. Porpoises, Dolphins, and Whales)
  • Big Cats (Leopard, Tiger, Cheetah)
  • Sturgeons (Great indicators of ecosystem health)
  • Elephants 
  • Rhinos
  • Great Apes
  • Marine Turtles
  • Sharks and Rays
  • Vultures

These species have been designated as priority species due to the following factors (mostly their importance in the ecosystem):

  • Species that are essential to a food chain and without which it would collapse.
  • Species that aid in the development and strengthening of habitats.
  • Species with a high need for conservation practices.
  • Species used for commercial purposes.
  • Species of cultural significance.

Priority species are a critical concern across the ecological region, indicating a greater hazard to the entire ecosystem. It is frequently vital to all creatures’ spiritual or financial well-being within the ecoregion.

Planning to protect these priority species explicitly will aid in conserving a wide range of other species that share the same habitats and are exposed to comparable threats.


2. Keystone Species 

At a certain level, keystone species are critical to the functioning, structure, or production of a habitat/ecosystem. If these species go extinct, it might cause a dramatic shift in the ecosystems or a breakdown in habitat structure maintenance. According to the species definition in biology, some insects can also serve as keystone species.

If keystone species are prioritised, conservation strategies for these species will help conserve the structures and functions of a diverse variety of habitats related to them throughout their life cycle.


Examples of keystone species are as follows:

  • Grizzly bears
  • African elephants
  • Sharks
  • Sea otters
  • Krill 
  • Beavers
  • Hummingbirds
  • Parrotfish
  • Prairie dogs 
  • Woodpeckers
  • Grey wolves
  • Snowshoe hare
  • Starfish

3. Indicator Species 

It is a collection of species selected as an indication or proxy for the status of the environment as well as a specific process within that habitat. Crayfishes, for example, suggest that the water is of high quality, whereas the loss of native vegetation shows the effect or existence of alien species.

A more particular example would be Russian Sturgeons, which represent the biological equilibrium of the Danube river environment.

Examples of indicator species are as follows:

  • Wood stork
  • Peppered moth
  • River otters
  • Frogs 
  • Buck’s horn plantain
  • Algal blooms 
  • Lichens 

4. Flagship Species 

Flagship species are chosen from the environment to serve as a symbol, icon, or ambassador for a certain topic, campaign, or environmental cause. Organisations can preserve and preserve other species in the ecosystem vulnerable to similar attacks by demonstrating protection of flagship species.

Because they are huge, they are attractive and well-known in Western societies. Although they are not keystone species, they are demonstrated to be markers of biological variation in the environment.

Did you know that? All ten priority species are endangered, including lions, tigers, and giraffes. Flagship species are classified into international, cultural, and ecological.

Characteristics of Flagship Species

Because of their distinct appeal, flagship species are recognised all over the world. Many nations and regions have picked one-of-a-kind flagship species to serve as their national mascots. For example, the Iberian Lynx and Brown Bear are examples of this in Spain. The flagship species are also used as an arm to fight for conservation goals.

Examples of flagship species are as follows:

  • The Asian Elephant is once again a symbol of India.
  • The African Elephant is the WWF African Elephant Program’s flagship species.
  • The Bengal Tiger is a Flagship species for an Indian conservation programme.
  • WWF’s Flagship species is the Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).
Flagship Species Management Issues

While discussing flagship species, we will also discuss the challenges associated with their management. Many organisations prioritise the conservation of the flagship species over other species.

For example, the WWF flagship species list includes animals and a few birds but nearly no plants. It is critical to memorise what other species live on our earth, as well as other groupings of animals that are more endangered and may require protection.

Some of these species may also be indicator and keystone species. Even those serve a significant part in the ecosystem’s function, structure, and production. The umbrella species, which are connected to the flagship species, are also important in conservation biology.

5. Umbrella Species

Umbrella species require complicated and large habitats, and their conservation is aimed at preserving the entire ecosystem to which they belong. Many canopy species are frequently recognised as flagship species since their conservation seeks to protect the ecosystem as a whole.

For example, to save African gorillas, protecting the entire forest, which contains other species in the same habitat, is critical to protect them as well.

Major Threats To The Species 

Illegal wildlife trafficking, pollution, invasive species, habitat degradation, and climate change are some of the most serious threats to wildlife. 

After narcotics, guns, and people trafficking, the illegal wildlife trade is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise.

Importance of Animal Species 

Animal species must be protected because they provide a purpose for humans as part of the ecosystem. They also play a crucial role in the food web. The technique of safeguarding wild plant and animal species and their ecosystems is known as wildlife conservation. 

Animal conservation aims to guarantee that nature is preserved for subsequent generations to enjoy and to acknowledge the value of wildlife and wilderness regions to humans. Because of the harmful consequences of human activities on wildlife, wildlife conservation has become an increasingly vital profession.


Animals and plants serve as the cornerstones of healthy ecosystems. When a species becomes vulnerable, it indicates that the environment is deteriorating. Each species that exterminates causes the extermination of other species in its surroundings. Humans depend on performing ecosystems to keep our surroundings clean.

Scientists believe that protecting the particular habitats where endangered animals reside is the greatest approach to safeguard them. Wildlife needs someplace to eat, sleep, and rear their young. Habitat loss is caused by logging, oil and gas drilling, overgrazing, and development.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. How do you recognise a species?

A: Interbreeding is essential to the biological species concept, which describes species as members of populations that may interbreed to generate viable offspring. (To be called “viable,” the offspring must be capable of reproducing.)

2. What is the significance of species?

A: A diversified and proportionate number of species exists in a healthy ecosystem to preserve an ecosystem’s equilibrium. All species rely on one another in an ecosystem, either explicitly or implicitly. It is therefore critical to maintain high species variety to create a more efficient, productive, and sustainable environment.

3. What is the significance of species identification?

A: Understanding species and recognising them is crucial for biologists and the general population. Biological variety is lost when species become extinct, and knowing species is the only way to shape the societal, political, and economical dynamics that influence conservation efforts.



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