The concept of a species as an irreducible group whose members are descended from a common ancestor and who all possess a combination of certain defining, or derived, traits (see apomorphy). Hence, this concept defines a species as a group having a shared and unique evolutionary history. It is less restrictive than the biological species concept, in that breeding between members of different species does not pose a problem. Also, it permits successive species to be defined even if they have evolved in an unbroken line of descent, with continuity of sexual fertility. However, because slight differences can be found among virtually any group of organisms, the concept tends to encourage extreme division of species into ever-smaller groups.
Subjects: Biological Sciences.