Vol 7 Animals in Danger ... Introduction ... What is a species?
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Introduction

What is a species?

Animals and their habitats may provide the cure for many human diseases.
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For the past several hundred years, scientists have grouped living things into groups called SPECIES. Each species consists of animals with very similar characteristics, and a species is usually defined as a group of animals which produce offspring that look like themselves. In the simplest sense, lions and tigers are both species. We all recognize what they look like. But it is possible to mate a lion and a tiger together. This animal looks partly like a lion and partly like a tiger. Like many hybrid animals, this so-called ‘tigon’ or ‘liger’ is sterile and cannot breed.

Species are given scientific names consisting of two parts. For example the common American leopard frog has the scientific name Rana pipiens. The first part of the name (Rana) refers to a GENUS of frogs, and the last name (pipiens)refers to the particular species. This is rather like the naming convention of cars. Ford Mustang for example is a species (Mustang) of the Ford genus! GENERA (the plural of ‘genus’) are closely related species: examples of species in the same genus are Equus asinus, the ass, and Equus burchelli, Burchell’s zebra.