SPECIES



One of the challenges that faces a student of the biological sciences is the seemingly endless array of unfamiliar terms that one must learn. It is a relief to come across a relatively familiar one, such as species. Although it has a scientific sound to it, the word has entered everyday language, such that when people use it, most everyone understands what is meant. Or do they? As it turns out, there is no hard and fast definition for the word. Nonetheless, it is easy enough to find examples of species, since there are many millions of them in five kingdoms of living things—a product of a phenomenon know as speciation, whereby evolutionary lines of descent diverge and new species are created. In the world today, there are many interesting groups of species, distinguished neither by evolutionary line nor by taxonomy but instead by the ways in which they interact with their environments. Among these groups are endangered species, of whose existence most people are aware, owing to the spread of the environmentalist message through media and entertainment outlets since the early 1970s. Less familiar is another broad group that in many cases threaten humans: introduced or invasive species.

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