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  • Introduction - General - Taxonomy, nomenclature and the concept of species

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Conventionally, the species is defined as a population which can reproduce among itself and which is reproductively isolated from other populations. This appears clear when we talk for example of humans, horses, wild ducks or rattlesnakes, but with other organisms it is much less obvious. What is the situation with the taxonomy of extinct species? What about symbiotic organisms, from lichen to protozoaprotista, which cannot live without their symbiont? Some organisms have no sexual reproduction (for example amoebae). If there are sterile hybrids (e.g. horse x donkey-> mule), then this is an answer. Sometimes however there are fertile hybrids (some animals, many plants). The problem of species definition is central in biology at present. This has practical implications for example for the better understanding of the variability of diseases such as amoebiasis, leishmaniasis or Chagas' disease. Better insights into vector populations also depend on good definitions (some morphologically identical mosquitoes appear genetically to consist of various complexes with, for example, differing biting or reproductive behaviour).