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Linné on line arrow Plants and Animals arrow The order in nature arrow A species – the basic unit in nature

A species – the basic unit in nature

Moon jellyfish and lion's mane jellyfish, two different species. Drawing from Linnaeus journey to the county Västergötland in 1747.

Something as evident as the fact that there are different species is nothing to brood upon, is it? Well, yes it is. Man has always used the species as a basic unit when classifying plants and animals. It is noteworthy that no one can really tell exactly what a species is. There are many different species definitions.

The view of species and their role in nature has changed through time. In Linnaeus’ time scientists were searching for the divine order in nature. It was harmonious, stable and was to be present in nature. The order we are searching for today is the result of a process through millions of years, the evolution. We will never know exactly how the evolution proceeded but we can draw conclusions by studying the plants and animals we find around us today.

A new species has to be described according to certain rules. It has to be given a scientific name. This name has to consist of two words according to the two names principle. The appearance of the species also has to be described and in what ways it differs from other closely related species. Linnaeus was the founder of the naming principles of plants and animals. This was one of his major contributions to science.