Subspecies - Monotypic and Polytypic Species

Monotypic and Polytypic Species

A polytypic species has two or more subspecies, races or more generally speaking, populations that need a separate description. These are separate groups that are clearly distinct from one another and do not generally interbreed (although there may be a relatively narrow hybridization zone), but which would interbreed freely if given the chance to do so. Note that groups which would not interbreed freely, even if brought together such that they had the opportunity to do so, are not subspecies: they are separate species.

A monotypic species has no distinct population or races, or rather one race comprising the whole species. Monotypic species can occur in several ways:

  • All members of the species are very similar and cannot be sensibly divided into biologically significant subcategories.
  • The individuals vary considerably but the variation is essentially random and largely meaningless so far as genetic transmission of these variations is concerned.
  • The variation among individuals is noticeable and follows a pattern, but there are no clear dividing lines among separate groups: they fade imperceptibly into one another. Such clinal variation always indicates substantial gene flow among the apparently separate groups that make up the population(s). Populations that have a steady, substantial gene flow among them are likely to represent a monotypic species even when a fair degree of genetic variation is obvious.

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