Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1308-1

The Concept of Species and Its definition: An Historical Perspective

Species are the fundamental units of biological classifications. Understanding the concept of species is important both because species are the units of comparison across different biological disciplines including behavior, evolution, genetics, ecology, anatomy, development, and molecular biology, and because it plays an important role for the formulation of environmental law and ecological conservation. Species are also the currency by which biologists measure biodiversity. However, biologists largely disagree on the definition of “species.”

Attempts to define the concept of species date back to the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, who viewed the world as we know it as a flawed shadow of the eternal and immutable world of ideas. Indeed, the word “species” originates from the Latin “kinds” which is a translation of the Greek word eidos(idea). According to this view, the world we live in is imperfect and...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Annika Paukner
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Comparative EthologyEunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentPoolesvilleUSA