Species

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In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are often used, such as similarity of DNA, morphology or ecological niche. Presence of specific locally adapted traits may further subdivide species into subspecies.

The commonly used names for plant and animal taxa sometimes correspond to species: for example, "lion," "walrus," and "Camphor tree" – each refers to a species. In other cases common names do not: for example, "deer" refers to a family of 34 species, including Eld's Deer, Red Deer and Elk (Wapiti). The last two species were once considered a single species, illustrating how species boundaries may change with increased scientific knowledge.

Each species is placed within a single genus. This is a hypothesis that the species is more closely related to other species within its genus than to species of other genera. All species are given a binomial name consisting of the generic name and specific name (or specific epithet). For example, Boa constrictor, which is commonly called by its bionomial name, and is one of five species of the Boa genus.

A usable definition of the word "species" and reliable methods of identifying particular species are essential for stating and testing biological theories and for measuring biodiversity. Traditionally, multiple examples of a proposed species must be studied for unifying characters before it can be regarded as a species. Extinct species known only from fossils are generally difficult to assign precise taxonomic rankings.

Because of the difficulties with both defining and tallying the total numbers of different species in the world, it is estimated that there are anywhere between 2 and 100 million different species.[1]

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