Splits, lumps, taxonomies, check-lists, whatever.

Subject: Splits, lumps, taxonomies, check-lists, whatever.
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2013 09:27:14 +0800

Bob Inglis asked the obvious question about species.

Would someone be so kind as to tell me what that definition

I gave a winter class for Birds Australia WA (now BirdLife WA) last June on an introduction to taxonomy.  So I looked up the definition of species, family, order, etc.

The only reasonable definition I could find for a Family for example was that it was "the taxonomic level below Order and above Genus".  The definitions for Order, Genus, etc were recursive.

It was almost impossible to get a good definition for species.  I ended up going with :

"Species ? This is a low level taxonomic rank.  There are many definitions of what constitutes a species.  Simplistically, a species is a group of organisms capable of producing fertile young, and in theory if two different species interbreed then their hybrid offspring is infertile.  But the situation is far more complex than this, and there are several methods used to determine one species from another.  This is too hard to explain in this forum.  You sometimes see the term full species.  e.g. Lemon-bellied Flycatcher is a full species, whereas Kimberley Flycatcher is not because it is a sub species of the Lemon-bellied Flycatcher."

Frank O'Connor           Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694              Email :


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