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Insects make up the vast majority of animal species. Populations that cannot interbreed are separate species. How is a biological species defined?
The biological species concept is a classical concept. It applies, however, to species that reproduce sexually and is as follows: In other words, a species is a more-or-less genetically isolated element, evolving on its own.
This concept implies a closed gene pool. The species concept is not universal.
It is not universal. It can be applied to the vast majority of animals and a great many flowering plants. It may be applicable to many kinds of microorganisms. But there are many other organisms, especially plants and microorganisms, to which this concept cannot be applied, or at best applied with difficulty.
Obviously, it cannot be applied if there is no sexual reproduction.
Subspecies refers to races that differ in certain traits. Can a subspecies be defined as clearly as a species? Not to the same degree. In theory, a subspecies is a geographical race. A species may be divided into geographical races that differ from one another consistently, in a set of diagnostic traits, such as color, length of wing, breeding habits.
Overall, subspecies have many difficulties that make them far more an arbitrary category than species. Defining subspecies is often difficult.
One of the difficulties is that traits tend to vary separately from one another. Take for example a butterfly species of Eastern Europe.
You might find that populations grow progressively larger going from north to south but are darker in color going from east to west. A closer study may reveal that they have more spots on the wing going from southeast to southwest.
So, what are you to do? Will you select one or two characteristics and define the subspecies that way? Or do you try to combine many characteristics and, if so, you get a jumble of many subspecies? Discordance of traits is probably the most difficult aspect of applying the subspecies concept.
However, subspecies is still used and it has some validity, especially in the case of island races. What about chrono, or ancestral, species? A chronospecies is simply a necessity of science because we have to distinguish between populations that live today and populations that are ancestral to them.
They lived so long ago that they are very different. For example, we are the species Homo sapiens — and it is fairly certain that we descended directly from another species, Homo erectus — and it would be very confusing, somehow intuitively incorrect, to try to put them together.
Nonetheless we want to make a distinction between them, even though it is arbitrary. What are the origins of biodiversity?
Species tend to evolve rapidly on islands. First is the apparent cycle that species go through in populating a new area and diversifying. When an island or an archipelago is formed, for example, or an area is cleared by glaciation or other major physical event of its original biodiversity, there is first a flood of immigrant species.
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