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Species (/ˈspiːʃiːz/; Latin: species, "a kind") is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction.


The word species comes from the Latin species, meaning "a kind". It was first used in this sense by Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century.


While the concept of species has been widely accepted and used in biological sciences, there is no single universally agreed definition of what constitutes a species. The most commonly used definition is the Biological species concept, which defines a species as a group of actually or potentially interbreeding individuals that are reproductively isolated from other such groups.

Related Terms

  • Genus: A rank in the taxonomic hierarchy, one step above species.
  • Subspecies: A taxonomic category that is below species, usually a fairly permanent geographically isolated race.
  • Variety (botany): A taxonomic rank below that of species and subspecies, but above that of form.
  • Hybrid (biology): The offspring resulting from combining the qualities of two organisms of different breeds, varieties, species or genera through sexual reproduction.
  • Taxonomy (biology): The science of defining and naming groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics.

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