What’s A Species?
Earlier in the Cells
are Us module, you
learned that humans are made up of huge populations of millions of
cells. Just like your body,
ecosystems are also composed of interacting units called species. How would you define a species?
For our purposes, organisms
are of the same species if they produce offspring that can reproduce.
evidence, however, shows that this definition may be out dated.
For example, a cow and a bison can mate and produce offspring that can
reproduce, but they are definitely different species. These days,
many scientists use genetic variation as the factor in determining which
organisms are in the same species. It is important to remember
that how an organism is defined is mostly based upon an subjective
interpretation of the data.
at the mule as an example:
What's A Species?
To Protect and Serve
Populations on the Genetic Level
Creating New Species
The Wars of Succession
Predators and Prey
|Do you know where mules come from? Well, when a male donkey and a female horse
reproduce, a mule is born. Knowing that a donkey and a horse constitute two different species, does this violate the previous definition of species?
No. Specifically, can the offspring also reproduce? In this case, a mule cannot reproduce so, a horse and a donkey are not of the same species. Interestingly enough, the first President, George Washington, is considered the father of mule breeding.
(Learn more about
||Now that you know the definition, can
you name any observations you’ve had with species?
For example, are the Chihuahua and the Great Dane different
species of dog? Why
or not why not?
To Protect and Serve
Do species have a function? The
main thing a species needs to do is to preserve itself.
Of course, to do so, it must produce offspring that are able to
reproduce in sufficient numbers. When
you consider the definition of a species, why does this make sense?
To recall your original analogy, if many cells make up
a tissue, what do many members of the same species make up?
The answer: a population.