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Difference Between Genus and Species

187px-Biological_classification_L_Pengo_vflip.svgDifference between Genus and Species

All living organisms present on the earth are categorized into groups for easier understanding. Taxonomy is a branch of science which deals with the scientific categorization of organisms into separate groups based on the presence and absence of certain characteristics. The characteristics may be physical or genetic. ‘Taxis’ in Greek refers to order and arrangement. Classification of all organisms including plants, animals and microbes according to a set of rules brings in uniformity and simplicity while studying these organisms across the globe. The taxonomic hierarchy consists of

Kingdom        –   Phylum  –      Class  –      Order     –      Family   –     Genus    –       Species.

Common names would have created lot of confusion as every country would have had a separate name for the same organism. The need to bring in standardization in the process of naming gave birth to the binomial naming system both in zoology and botany. This is a scientific naming process adopted all over the world across language barriers. It helps to reduce confusion.

Binomial naming system consists of giving two names to an organism. Just like we have a name and a surname, the organisms are named after their genus and species. These are the lowest two levels in the taxonomic system of naming. The first name is the genus followed by the name of their species. For example Homo sapiens refer to human beings. The word Homo refers to genus and the word sapiens refers to species. Let us understand certain differences between genus and species.


Species is defined as the largest group organisms that can interbreed to produce a fertile offspring. Organisms having similar set of DNA and similar physical and morphological attributes are said to be of the same species. They have the same number of chromosomes and thus possess similar morphological characteristics. The male and female of the same species can interbreed to produce a fertile offspring of the same species.

The name of the species or the specific name/epithet forms the second part of the binomial nomenclature. It is generally written in small letters and italics. Species are basically groups or populations of animals that have a high degree of genetic similarity. There may be many species under the same genus.


‘Genus’ in Greek means ‘race’. It comes below the family and above the species in the taxonomic hierarchy. Many a times it is not possible to identify all organisms up to the level of the species, especially the fossilized and extinct ones. In such case identifying the genus of the organism is enough to label it.

A genus can have many species. Organisms of different species of the same genus cannot produce a fertile offspring if interbred together. Mule is a classic example of this. It is a product of a donkey and a horse which are two different species belonging to the same genus (Equus).

The genus or the generic name precedes the specific name in binomial classification. The first letter is written in capital letters. The generic name is also written in italics and can be abbreviated to the first letter. For example: Homo sapiens or H. sapiens.

To summarize genus and species are the lower most ranks in the taxonomic hierarchy of the scientific naming system.

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  1. This definitely needs rewriting. It’s repetitive, vague, and unhelpful.

  2. Helpful

  3. Hey guys,
    I don’t know who runs this website, but I would like to salute whomsoever does. You guys were very helpful and helped me save lots of time which I would have spent on browsing instead. The difference was clear and that is what impressed me. Keep it up and keep going! 🙂

  4. What is difference between genus and species based on their similarities? I have lot of confusion regarding this..

  5. The traditional definitions of species offered here are now in question due to the clear evidence of interbreeding between species of humanoids (e.g., Homo sapiens and Neanderthal). It may take a while for text books–and web sites–to catch up.

  6. You still to this day cant breed a monkey or anything else like it and produce a human being. So all you evolutionist out there I feel sorry for your non-creationist, lack of God, in your nonprovable theory thinking.

    • Brother, why do you wrestle against flesh and blood. Do you not insult those who have not come to know Christ … do you not push them further from knowing God by inflicting injury … hence remember that your word will judge you at the end. Turn and repent so we may all serve the Lord.

    • Did you even bother reading the page, David Stevenson? It clearly states that “Organisms of different species of the same genus cannot produce a fertile offspring if interbred together.”

      Please read more before feeling sorry for people who don’t believe in your nonprovable religious hand-me-down hearsay. A good place to start might be “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” to discover that there were many species of Homo prior to Homo sapiens.

  7. This is awesome.However, it would be easier if the differences were tabulated.

  8. Thank you for answering a question I had regarding evolution. If two different species cannot reproduce a fertile offspring then we couldn’t have evolved from monkeys. We can only evolve within our own species. That’s why monkeys still exist today.

  9. This article satisfied the understanding I was seeking. Based on the comments, I believe that it was too rudimentary for some who were more advanced in the subject. That too was good to know.

  10. If a scientist claims there is no God, its because they are unwilling to apply the same scientific methodology they would apply to any other test subject in the universe. The body of evidence is so vast that an intelligent creator exist, that it reveals an extreme bias nature of a scientist who declares God isnt real. The same methodology that reveals wind and rays of sunshine exist also reveals our God. Neither wind or sunlight can be seen by the human eye, but they can be felt,measured and tested, but only through their interaction with other matter. The man who believes HE is a genius for an amazing discovery that ‘popped’ into his head is missing out on the vast knowledge he ‘could’ be a steward of if he had the humility to acknowledgement the limits of ability and give gratitude to God for entrusting him with such a grand gift of intellect the world had never known before. This is why 80 to 90 percent of the worlds inventions come out of Christian minds.And that fact has been proven time and time again.

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