Biological specificity

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In biology, biological specificity is the tendency of a characteristic such as a behavior or a biochemical variation to occur in a particular species.

Biochemist Linus Pauling stated that "Biological specificity is the set of characteristics of living organisms or constituents of living organisms of being special or doing something special; each animal or plant species is special. It differs in some way from all other species... biological specificity is the major problem about understanding life."[1]


Characteristics may further be described as being interspecific, intraspecific, and conspecific.


Interspecificity (literally between/among species), or being interspecific, describes issues between individuals of separate species. These may include:


Intraspecificity (literally within species), or being intraspecific, describes behaviors, biochemical variations and other issues within individuals of a single species. These may include:


Two or more individual organisms, populations, or taxa are conspecific if they belong to the same species.[2] Where different species can interbreed and their gametes compete, the conspecific gametes take precedence over heterospecific gametes; this is known as conspecific sperm precedence, or conspecific pollen precedence in plants.


The antonym of conspecificity is the term heterospecificity: two individuals are heterospecific if they are considered to belong to different biological species.[3]

Related concepts[edit]

Congeners are organisms within the same genus.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Linus Pauling, Barbara Marinacci, Linus Pauling in His Own Words: Selections From His Writings, Speeches and Interviews, (1995), p. 96.
  2. ^ "Conspecificity". Biology online. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  3. ^ "Heterospecificity". Biology online. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  4. ^ Congener, Accessed 2009-03-25

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