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excellent article

excellent article! -- Tarquin 15:40 14 May 2003 (UTC)

Indeed, it does look very interesting. Good work, Mr. Tannin. I haven't read the whole thing carefully, but I'll do so a bit later. -- Oliver P. 16:02 May 14, 2003 (UTC)

Thankyou, gentlemen! There are a lot of rough edges as yet, but we will knock them over as time goes by. (Both here and in species, which is the other half of the same topic.) Thanks also to Micheal Hardy and Jimfbleak for cleaning up my dreadful spelling! Tannin

Subspecies in humans?

This article states what criteria make groups separate species, but it doesn't really state what exactly is a subspecies. My specific question is whether the different human races (white, African, Asian, etc.) are subspecies? — Timwi 13:54, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC)

As the definition is written it would seem we could divide humanity into several subspecies. That's probably what a Martian scientist would do, though we may be reluctant to do so ourselves. 00:12, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
As a Martian scientist who is also from
the future
, I'm inclined to disagree. You people don't realize how blurred those lines are, do you? Lenoxus " * " 10:50, 28 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The human species has no subspecies, because all major populations are genetically mixed, and have been so for centuries. In the human species there has been a substantial amount of "RACE-MIXING", therefore it would not be correct to speak of human "subspecieses". Most Whites have a fair amount of "Black" and "Asian" blood, most Blacks have a certain amount of "White" or "Asian" blood, therefore it would not be appropriate to speak of "White Race" or "Black Race" or "Asian Race". Race Mixing has become a HALLMARK, a distinguishing feature of the human species, which sets us apart from other species. Bengal Tigers and Siberian Tigers do not normally interbreed, except when brought together by man in zoos or circuses, tahts is whereas Blacks and Whites have been interbreeding for centuries if not millenia. Bengal Tigers and Siberian Tigers only interbreed when the geographic barrier is removed through external intervention. But Man has the ability to remove these barriers himself. Therefore: the Bengal Tiger and the Siberian Tiger= VALID SUBSPECIES. Whereas Europeans and Africans= INVALID SUBSPECIES. ComradeFlorian RaduFlorian (talk) 15:11, 7 June 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What is black and asian blood? Do you know anything about
How do you know what most white, black, asian blood has in it?
What do different tiger Sub/species not breeding with each other have do to with humans?
Do you have sources of the studies that show most whites have black blood? (talk) 13:09, 11 December 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I disagree, I'd say Blacks and Whites are different subspecies, because there's particular genes that you can check to scientifically test whether somone is Black or White, AND these tests will almost always match with your intuition based on physical features (skin color, eye shape, hair shape, etc..). And you can constistently use those same genes to repeat the test on other people. While with my brother and I, you wouldn't know which genes are different unless you did an exhaustive search, so we are not different subspecies. What I disagree most with the definition on the current wiki page is that they say a subspecies would bread freely with another subspecies provided that a particular external barrier didn't exist. So I'm a different subspecies from my sister, because she's in jail and therefore I can't mate with her ?? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dr. Universe (talkcontribs) 21:38, 23 December 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Dr. Universe (talk) 21:39, 23 December 2009 (GMT)

"A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one." What about "Homo sapiens sapiens"? Sapiens is the only subspecies of Homo sapiens. Justanotherguitarist (talk) 02:03, 2 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There used to be at least one other subspecies, Homo sapiens idaltu. And it's still a subject of debate as to whether a third subspecies (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) existed or if it was a distinct species (Homo neanderthalensis). Either way, both are now extinct, as are other early humans that some believe to have been subspecies of H. sapiens. So it's not that H. sapiens has only one subspecies (as by definition that cannot be the case), it's just that it has only one living subspecies. A subspecies doesn't get erased from the taxonomic tree just because it becomes extinct. (talk) 03:49, 1 June 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It seems like it's important to note here that subspecies are, by their very definition, populations which are capable of merging with one another genetically. The argument that extant Homo sapiens are not divisible into subspecies because the "races" are adequately mixed in the modern age appears to ignore the fact that this was not always so. Europeans were divided from Africans by a sea and desert, from Asians by mountains and desert, and from Americans and Pacific Islanders by oceans. The races had indeed been geographically isolated for some time: the definition given for subspecies, the races of man were subspecies before technology allowed frequent travel between the continents. The question thus becomes, at what point to two interbreeding subspecies cease to be separate subspecies? Do the two obliviate each other at the creation of a single child? If not where is the line drawn? if 1% of the descendants of a one-geographically isolated subspecies is mixed with another subspecies, is that when it's no longer taxinomally relevant? 5%? 10%? 50%? There's no number, which means it's entirely arbitrary. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:27, 22 January 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thats the problem with classifying below the species level. Which is defined by the ability to interbreed which is a pretty solid way of classifying different species, but different sub-species (races) are defined how, based on what? (talk) 20:18, 21 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Geographic isolation and limited to nonexistent reproduction (though perfectly possible) between members are the usual criteria for naming subspecies. That is not the case with humans which have population groups that are more or less geographically continuous and with no reproductive barriers at all. And yes, even in prehistoric times. The human populations that exist today are separated from each other by mere thousands of years, and have always sporadically or entirely maintained contact. Civilization further removed the last barriers when it began around 12,000 years ago, when humans started clustering together again.

And no even species demarcation is not that clear-cut, unless you're talking about relict species. See our articles on ring species and species complex for example.

And no, there are of course, actual genetic and physical differences between human populations, but you simply can not fit them as neatly into groups as you would be able to with animals or plants whose evolutionary paths are slaves to their environments. Differences can be useful in taxonomy, but only when the differences are meaningful. The differences between human populations on the other hand are not meaningful nor easily quantifiable. Given that race itself in biology means an uncertainty on whether actual meaningful variation exists (i.e. it is not a formal classification), classifying humans into subspecies is even more preposterous.

Because do remember one thing: we're humans. We have one thing animals don't - a mind. The same thing that enabled us to colonize the planet very very rapidly. A mere mountain or desert doesn't geographically isolate us the way it would the

. Applying races or subspecies to humans would be a severely dumbed down version of the actual genetic diversity that exists.

The obsession with separating "us" from "them" in humans has always been sociocultural. A political thing, not biological. Arising from the very human need to be exclusive and special. The same thing that also led us to invent religions and wars that aren't about resources at all. The variations become the tribal mark, and the outsiders become the enemy. And tribalism is still alive and well, though we tend to justify it nowadays with different names like "nationalism" or "patriotism". -- OBSIDIANSOUL 22:22, 21 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

For what it's worth, the German wikipedia has the information that a) there is no biological justification to consider the well-known races (blacks, whites, Asians etc.) subspecies [that is, they say so with a couple of circumlocutions to avoid the term race], they rather are part of the one subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, b) there are some populations that could be, on account of their local seperation, considered subspecies by analogous application of the zoological criteria (but this is not done as further subdivision of the Human species is avoided): specifically mentioned are the
Negritos, Aborigines and San.--2001:A60:159F:A401:58D9:7B9E:2E9E:966D (talk) 13:55, 28 August 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply


Not really disputed so much as just really unclear....

"In taxonomy, a subspecies is the taxon immediately subordinate to a species. Members of one subspecies differ morphologically but sometimes only genetically from members of other subspecies of the species."

"but sometimes only genetically"????

What's that supposed to mean? Is it meant to say "sometimes not genetically"???

--Blackcats 19:57, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)

If the specimens are different genetically, they also have to be different morphologically. 2004-12-29T22:45Z 02:36, 29 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Untrue. Many nucleotide polymorphisms can have no phenotypic/morphological effect; e.g. see
neutral mutations. --DAD T 05:20, 18 July 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply

The rate of Genetic differences does not correspond to a similar rate of morphological differences. Variance has to be expressed threw expression, and that rate is independent.

In fruit fly and plant studies, heavy genetic changes induced by scientists mostly resulted in no or little change in the morphology of the fruit flies, but when changes occurred in one or a few specific genes there was often great morphological changes. It not how much the difference is but were the difference occurs. Hardyplants 03:45, 28 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Two issues in the article

"However, animals of the different subspecies of the same species might not interbreed even if geographical factor is removed." This statement seems to contradict the contents of the paragraph immediately preceding it. That paragraph seemed to indicate that a requirement for a group of individual organisms being clubbed together in the same subspecific category was that they would in fact interbreed, if only the obstacles (physical ones were cited as example) to doing so were removed.

Second, this article doesn't seem to give a "lower bound" on the definition: i.e. it explains a subspecies in terms of species (the coarser level of classification immediately above), but doesn't talk about what separates that taxonomic category from the immediately finer category that lies below it (subsubspecies?).

But I love wikipedia, and I love you guys. Keep up the fine work.


I have a question if you lets say have many varietys of sharks living on the U.S. west coast all belong in the same family but the Northern ones cant mate with the southerners but both groups can mate with the central group and, there is no clear line between groups. how will this be grouped —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:04, 5 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This sounds like primary intergradation. --Jwinius (talk) 20:00, 5 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

i read the article and primary intergration is were the groups are still in the same species in my scenario the northerners and southerners cant breed

Csizzle —Preceding unsigned comment added by Csizzle (talkcontribs) 14:49, 7 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This is screwed up

The article contradicts itself. At first it says:

"If the two groups do not interbreed because of something intrinsic to their genetic make-up (perhaps black frogs do not find white frogs sexually attractive, or they breed at different times of year) then they are different species...If, on the other hand, the two groups would interbreed freely provided only that some external barrier was removed (perhaps there is a waterfall too high for frogs to scale, or the populations are far distant from one another) then they are subspecies."

OK, good enough. But toward the end of article...

"However, animals of the different subspecies of the same species might not interbreed even if geographical factor is removed. Differences in appearance and behavior rather often prevent the potential sex partners from recognizing each other as the sex partners. This is especially true for animals with complicated sexual rituals. Members of different species are incapable of reproduction, or produce an infertile offspring."

This is a direct contradiction with respect to animals that don't interbreed due to genetically-encoded behavioral differences. The first paragraph clearly says that they would be different species. The second implies (wrongly, in my view) that they would only be different subspecies.

Subspecies vs. race

What is the different between a 'subspecies' and a 'race'? No explanation can be found neither in this article nor the one for 'race'. (There is some discussion of it on the talk page for 'race', but nothing really clear.) Someone please explain. SpectrumDT 18:45, 11 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

morph (zoology), cultivar, and strain (biology)
. There appears to be subtleties between them that I only partially grasp.
If anyone answers me, I'd appreciate a note on my talk page.
--zandperl 13:03, 3 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think strain (mostly in microbiology) and subspecies are more or less the same rank. would be good to compare in the article. Araz Zeyniyev (talk) 09:58, 5 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree, neither of the two articles (race_(biology) or subspecies) really differentiate. If different subspecies can reproduce viable, fertile offspring, then what is the difference between a subspecies and a race? I would assume that the use of the term subspecies to describe various races in humans would be a bit irresponsible, as many would misconstrue that as meaning "less than human", though it would simply be a taxonomical classification, the prefix "sub-" meaning only a more specific classification, not to mention bringing up discriminatory connentations, but from a strictly scientific point of view, is it just splitting hairs?Davepetr 04:48, 26 April 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Race and subspecies are identical. Why this has become obscure I have no idea. It was practically taken for granted in my anthropology and biology courses ages ago at university. Perhaps the looser usage of "race" in more political contexts has something to do with it. If one follows the definition of subspecies (it seems a bit unclear BTW in this article compared to what I learned), then it becomes obvious that there are no human races except one. Today, genetics also makes that case on an even firmer basis. Tmangray 08:09, 18 January 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Please see explanation by Andy below.Biophys (talk) 03:47, 12 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In case of humans, the sentence "the human races all form part of one single subspecies", meaning that they are not as wide apart to be considered different subspecies, makes scientific sense, and so by implication, the termina "subspecies" and "race" mean something different.--2001:A60:159F:A401:58D9:7B9E:2E9E:966D (talk) 14:00, 28 August 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hybrids and species definitions

Honestly, the last part of this article is just wrong. Unfortunately, interbreeding is not a clear-cut means of defining species taxonomically. It was long thought that different species that succeeded in reproducing would produce only sterile offspring--but we now know that is definitely untrue. The production of fertile offspring (consistantly fertile) from a pairing of milk and corn snakes proves this. These animals aren't only different species--they're not even in the same genus! (Lampropeltis spp. and Pantherophis guttata). We've also discovered that some hybrid pairings produce sterile animals only part of the time. It's rare to find a fertile mule, but it has happened. More commonly, ligers and tigons (tiger/lion hybrids) have been found to be fertile. So this section needs to be changed to reflect the reality--at the very least, it must be mentioned that this is not a reliable indicator of species. --WingedWolf 10:31 AM mtn, 10 April, 2006

like all chickens being birds but not all birds being chickens no one said that species cant interbreed with other species. Being in a species only means they can breed with others of the same species —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:10, 5 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Nominate subspecies

I've just redirected "Nominate subspecies" here. In addition, I believe there are a number of synonyms for this term:

  • Nominate race
  • Nominate form
  • Typical form
  • Nominotype
  • Nominate

I'm sure the first two are okay, but how about the other ones? --Jwinius 01:52, 6 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Okay, I'll answer this myself: they're all okay, except for "nominotype." It seems I made this one up myself, having subconsciously derived it from the term "nominotypical." For a while, I used "nominotype" in a number of the Viperidae articles I was writing, but then got suspicious, discovered my error and replaced it. However, that was not before a number of other sites (i.e. had copied those articles. Now it seems that there's even an academic paper out there that's uses this bogus term. Or, it "nominotype" actually an obscure, but correct term after all? --Jwinius 11:23, 28 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Just for interest...the term for a name created automatically at the sub-specific level, if one or more subspecies or varieties is described within a species (that differ from the type), is autonym. This name is always the same as the specific epithet of the nomenclatural type of that species, and no authorship is attributed to it. --- Andy C 1 08:32, 3 December 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Important difference between species and subspecies

I moved this section (below) to the talk page because it contradicts and/or replicates the rest of the article. If someone who understands population genetics better than I do sees items in this section that should go back into the article, please weave them back in.

Subspecies: a taxonomic subdivision of a species. A group of organisms whose behavior and/or genetically encoded morphological and physiological characteristics differ from those of other members of their species. Members of different subspecies of the same species are potentially capable of breeding with each other and of producing fertile offspring. However, animals of different species may not interbreed even if there is no geographical impediment. Differences in appearance and behavior often prevent members of different species from recognizing each other as potential sex partners. This is especially true for animals with complicated sexual rituals. Members of different species are either incapable of reproducing, or will produce infertile offspring.

Twisted86 04:44, 18 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Subspecies vs. varieties vs. non-formal ranks (A botanical perspective)

I hope this may clarify a few things if no-ones mentioned it already. (I’m speaking from a botanist’s point of view here, so forgive me if it conflicts with zoological taxonomy.) This isn't meant to be an exact description of all of these concepts, but more of an example of how they may be applied in real situations.

Subspecies’ is a formal taxonomic rank below the rank of species, outlined by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. It is generally applied to groups of organisms within a species which are genetically or morphologically differentiated from one another, sufficiently so to recognise them as distinct groups. Whether or not organisms belonging to a subspecies within a species can interbreed with other subspecies will depend on the organisms in question; and this is not generally used to define what constitutes a subspecies (particularly in plant groups where hybridisation may be possible).

The decision to circumscribe subspecies may be based on a number of factors, including morphological or genetic differentiation, which may result from geographic disjunction, or habitat differences, amongst other things; and generally subspecies are thought to represent distinct evolutionary lineages that may be islolated, reproductively, from other subspecies; therefore, the line between species and subspecies can often be difficult to establish. Species are generally thought to be dynamic, and under the influence of micro-evolutionary processes (i.e. gene flow, genetic drift etc), and therefore subspecies may represent, in some situations, groups of organisms in the process of speciation. For the most part, there are no clear rules regarding ‘cut-off points’ of genetic or morphological differentiation to tell us when subspecies should be treated as species or vice versa; so it is often left up to the judgement of the taxonomist to make these distinctions based on all of the available data. Generally, though, there will be a certain amount of overlap among two subspecies (in terms of morphology, etc), which would prevent the taxonomist from confidently treating them as distinct species.

In practice, taxonomists make decisions on the circumscription of groups within a species based on a number of lines of evidence; e.g. morphology, genetic similarity, anatomy, cytology etc. While subspecies do not always represent distinct evolutionary lineages within a species, it is a useful rank for classifying and conceptualising sub-specific groups, which can have broader application for, for example, biodiversity conservation. Taxonomic revisions within many groups of organisms occur all of the time, and the addition of new data often results in rank changes or new circumscriptions, e.g. a species may be split into several different species; subspecies may be raised to species rank etc; so these groups are not static.

Idealistically, one of the goals of taxonomy is to produce a system of classification which reflects evolutionary history; however, this does not always happen, nor is it always appropriate. But this is a huge area of debate, and not worth going into here.

Variety’ is another taxonomic rank subordinate to ‘subspecies’, and is most commonly used in botany, though not as often these days. Today, the variety rank is typically used to classify groups/populations of plants which may be somewhat morphologically distinct from other members of the species; however, this may not need to have any genetic basis. Often varieties of plants within a species may be morphologically distinct due to phenotypic changes resulting from differences in habitat, and so the ‘variety’ rank can be useful for circumscribing groups of organisms occupying different ecological niches to the remaining members of the species. Again, this definition is fairly simplified, and generally it’s left up to the taxonomist to decide what should and shouldn’t be described as distinct varieties within their study organisms. Historically, some taxonomists working with a particular species used only the variety rank to circumscribe infraspecific groups; others used only ‘subspecies’; and often there was no clear distinction drawn between the two ranks. While this distinction is debatable, taxonomists tend to stick with the rank that previous workers have used to reduce confusion. For example, within the family of plants I work with, only the variety rank has been used, so I am inclined to keep with this tradition. Also, changing between the two could create problems with name priority.

Race’, on the other hand, is not a formal taxonomic rank in botany (and indeed is not commonly used in botany), along with other informal group terms such as ‘morphotype’, ‘morph’, etc.. These terms are typically used to define groups within a species with some minor morphological difference (e.g. a population of plants with slightly different coloured petals to the remainder of the plants within the species), or genetic difference (for example a difference in a single microsatellite locus), which makes it stand out from other members of the species. As species often display some amount of morphological variability across their geographical range, slight differences in some populations are generally not considered sufficient evidence to warrent their formal recognition. These terms, therefore, are often used by biologists/taxonomists, when a formal rank should not be given, or if it is unsure whether or not a formal rank should be given. ‘Cultivar’ is generally used among horticulturalists, when new ‘species’ are artificially created; however, cultivar names do have their own nomenclatural rules. ‘Strain’ is generally used for bacteria or other microbes, I believe, but that’s not my area. ---- Andy C 1 07:39, 3 December 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes, exactly.Biophys (talk) 03:46, 12 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Leaves in zoology ?

The intro says it applies to zoology only, while one of the examples under the Criteria section refers to the shape of the leaves. StuRat 06:45, 18 January 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Bad example choice

 – I can't find that link. It's probably been removed.
boy00 @914, i.e. 20:56, 30 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply

The article says: "For an example of a subspecies, see

Pied Wagtail." I love the idea of giving a specific example, but that page is now a redirect to the species, not a separate page for the subspecies. Do you think that we could get an example that has its own page on wikipedia instead? — NEric Herboso 19:14, 8 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply

Primary stock

In its current form, this article states that "A subspecies is a taxonomic group which is less distinct than the primary stock or species from which it originates" and refers to "...the primary species or nominate form..." If this is correct, would it be accurate to say that the nominate subspecies, being the primary stock, is the most representative form of the species? Or, perhaps even that the nominate subspecies is the species? --Jwinius (talk) 20:05, 18 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That is a serious misconception, and the article needs correction. The question of which is the nominate form and which is a subspecies is purely an artefact of nomenclature, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the biology or evolution of the species. The nominate form is simply the form that has been scientifically described (i.e., named) first. Other differentiated populations that are regarded as conspecific, but were named later, then become subspecies of the former. This says nothing about which is a "prinicpal" form, which is most differentiated, or which is derived from which. Caissaca (talk) 12:09, 19 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I had a feeling that would turn out to be the case. Thanks! --Jwinius (talk) 13:00, 19 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Shouldn't that be mentioned in the article? Currently it says nothing about what the significance of a nominate subspecies is. Just how the scientific name of a nominate species is structured. (talk) 04:56, 9 December 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Are these two point correct?:

1) If we identify a new species, that group also becomes the nominate subspecies. So before there were any subspecies of wolf, Canis lupus, there was only Canis lupus lupus. No individual can be a member of a species without being a member of a subspecies. Thus, no individuals are Canis lupus unless they are Canis lupus X, where X is one of any of the many subspecies. A subspecies that diverges is still a member of the species, so a domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a Grey Wolf (Canis lupus). When one says that the species was the ancestor of the subspecies (i.e., the grey wolf is the ancestor of the dog), they are being imprecise; The ancestor of a subspecies was also a subspecies (e.g., the ancestor of the dog wasn't the grey wolf, but a particular subspecies of the grey wolf, such as the European Wolf).

2) The nominate subspecies doesn't hold a priveleged position; it was just the first identified. So it is possible that canis lupus dingo diverged from canis lupus lupus, or its possible that canis lupus lupus diverged from canis lupus dingo (in theory, considering only the names). The nominate subspecies is not necessarily the oldest member of the species.

Thanks for the clarification --Thesoxlost (talk) 14:55, 6 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The discussion about merging race and subspecies was inactive for a year. They are different categories, as clearly explained by an expert above. I made a few changes to further clarify the difference. If anyone objects removal of the tags, please explain why here.Biophys (talk) 00:19, 17 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

So to clarify...

Do I understand subspecies and nominates correctly?


Arctic Fox
, it says: "Besides the nominate, there are four subspecies of this fox."

This means that there are 5 subspecies/variations/types/kinds of
Arctic Fox
, right?

Would it be more accurate to say instead: "Besides the nominate subspecies, Alopex lagopus lagopus, there are four subspecies of this fox."

Lead Section

Can someone insert a concise definition of subspecies in the lead section? The

style guide
specifies that the lead section serves both as an introduction to the article and as a summary of its most important aspects and should be able to stand alone as a concise overview of the article.

This article needs a phrase in the lead like "Subspecies classification is assigned where a species has distinct population groups that do not interbreed either through morphology or genetics, although they could do so under different environmental circumstances" Chalky (talk) 18:31, 24 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Gatorgirl7563 (talk) 21:33, 6 November 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

They usually can interbreed (but do not interbreed due to geographic isolation). Otherwise, they would be assigned as different species.
Biophys (talk) 19:11, 24 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply
It's not possible to give a definition, believe me, I work in the area! Even a species can't be precisely defined, and the matter is referred to as "the species problem". If it were as simple as "they don't interbreed", then every asexual individual would be its own species, and there are other problems besides. Sorry. Nadiatalent (talk) 22:09, 24 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Biophys (talk) 23:19, 24 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply

Mostly inaccurate

Subspecies is the most misunderstood concept in zoological taxonomy, and most of the text in the article is inaccurate wrt zoology. In zoology a subspecies is not a "species-light", it's a population which is NOT diagnosably disticnt from other populations, but IS geographically isolated from other populations. For a subspecies to be valid there can not be overlap in the distributions of subspecies and the subspecies must not have unique (diagnosable) characters - the first would indicate that it's natural variation in a species, e.g. a cline, the second that it is a separate species. Because even most biologists misunderstand/fail to agree on what a subspecies is, there is a drive in taxonomy to eliminate the rank of subspecies - a subspecies, after all, equals either a trite statement about distribution, or is synonymous to species. There is also opposition to doing this, mainly because it is felt it would lead to an unmanageable number of new named species (an argument which is bizarre to me - we base classification on evolutionary relationship, not convenience). FWIW: Yes, I am a systematist. Because I only know the zoological code, not the botanical code, and because especially birders feel strongly about subspecies and are likely to reverse any substantial edits I make, I've refrained. I will however remove some of the positively misleading bits, e.g. the talk about interbreeding. The Man On The Street (talk) 13:50, 9 April 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Firstly, I agree that this is a very poor article, although perhaps for different reasons than you give. As the Species article explains rather better, the concepts underlying the assignment of a taxon to a particular rank are fuzzy and vary between specialists in different disciplines of biology. One specialist might divide a given set of populations into many species with few or no ranks below this level, another into fewer species with many lower ranks. This isn't brought out in the article at all; the implication is that everyone knows what a subspecies is.
Secondly, what you say is demonstrably incorrect for the way in which the concept of subspecies is widely used in botany. Subspecies normally have features which mean that an individual is recognisable as a member of that subspecies (as indeed is also the case for the lower level infraspecific ranks such as varieties and forms, which are also used in botany). Reliable sources that use subspecies and lower ranks provide keys to their identification (see as just one example the online Flora of China, e.g. the entry for Camellia sinensis).
Thirdly, I'm not convinced from my more limited knowledge of zoology that your view is generally held; as you say "most biologists ... fail to agree on what a subspecies is". It seems to me that you are in danger of trying to impose your view, whereas what Wikipedia should do is reflect in as neutral way as possible how biologists actually use the term. Peter coxhead (talk) 07:19, 10 April 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Deleted text from
Race (human classification)

This text from

Race (human classification)
seems like it might be more useful here:

Dean Amadon proposed in 1949 that subspecies would be defined according to the seventy-five percent rule which means that 75% of a population must lie outside 99% of the range of other populations for a given defining morphological character or a set of characters. The seventy-five percent rule still has defenders but other scholars argue that it should be replaced with ninety or ninety-five percent rule.[1]

--Carwil (talk) 15:39, 25 August 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference amadon was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

Subspecies Nearly same appearance?

is subspecies which is the species has nearly same apperance???? is that it? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cebu Flowerpecker (talkcontribs) 05:59, 12 March 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A three-legged stool with one long leg

When articles use specialized terminology or forms it is hard for the casual reader to know what the heck is going on. What should be a straight-forward description becomes 'Greek'.

The article mentions

Trinomen in passing, and has an attempt at demonstrating three names for a subspecies. But does that really help the confused reader trying to figure out what "M. t. macronyx" or "Q. l. lugubris"

I suppose the fourth paragraph of

Trinomen is supposed to reveal all, but this nomenclature seems inbred / cryptic. Shenme (talk) 04:42, 4 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply

Well, I tend to agree that reducing the two part name of the species to initials can be confusing, and we don't need to save paper here. On the other hand, I can't agree that the article only mentions "trinomen" in passing. It's clearly set out in the sentence beginning "The scientific name of a subspecies is termed trinomen, which comprises three words ..." If you think you can explain it more clearly, please go ahead. Peter coxhead (talk) 20:53, 4 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Notice that Subspecies is not interpreted in relation to Species as for example Subfamily in relation to Family. Subspecies are usually interpreted as a level below the Species, such as Gender in relation to Family. (talk) 21:23, 4 January 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The failure to apply the "subspecies" concept to humans... just political correctness?

Scary. I feel bad for the people who have to regurgitate this orthodoxy to pass a test at a university.

"Subspecies" is the exact word that describes human races but using it seems to have been denied. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:10, 27 November 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It is not ! Just read the definition again: the term subspecies refers to a unit of a species that has been geographically isolated for a long time. -- BhagyaMani (talk) 08:54, 27 November 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And you would usually expect crosses between subspecies to show some evidence of changes in fertility compared to crosses within subspecies, since the rank of subspecies is often used where there is movement towards distinct species. There's certainly no evidence of that in human population groups. The clincher is, as is well known, that genetic differences between human populations don't correspond to socially defined "races": most of the genetic diversity is within Africa; humans outside Africa are exceptionally genetically uniform, regardless of superficial differences in appearance. Peter coxhead (talk) 09:42, 27 November 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]