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Determinants of the Behaviour of a Species—Genotype and Phenotype

Determinants of the Behaviour of a Species—Genotype and Phenotype


  • Genotype is the complete heritable genetic identity.
  • The word genotype can also refer just to a particular gene or a set of genes carried by an individual.
  • For example, if one carries a gene linked to diabetes, one may refer to his genotype just with respect to this mutation without consideration of all the other gene variants that one may carry.


  • In contrast, phenotype is a description of actual physical characteristics.
  • This includes straightforward visible characteristics like height and eye colour, and also overall health, and even one’s behaviour.
  • Most phenotypes are influenced by both genotype and by the unique circumstances in which one has lived, including one’s experiences.
  • Thus, our phenotype is a result of two inputs: ‘nature, the unique genome we carry, and ‘nurture, the environment in which we have lived our lives.

Many terms are used to denote different species based on their role, importance or origin.

Keystone Species

  • A keystone species is a species that play a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community.
  • It affects many other organisms in an ecosystem and helps determine the types and numbers of various other species in the community.
  • Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.
  • For instance, tigers are keystone species in the terrestrial ecosystem. If the population of tigers decreases in the ecosystem, the population of the deer would rise.
  • The increase in deer population means more consumption of grass; thus, other species dependent upon grass may not be able to survive.

Flagship Species

  • A flagship species is a species selected to act as an ambassador, icon or symbol for a defined habitat, issue, campaign or environmental cause.
  • Flagship species are usually relatively large, and considered to be ‘charismatic.
  • The concept of flagship species has its genesis in the field of conservation biology.
  • The concept of flagship species holds that by raising the profile of a particular species, it can successfully leverage more support for biodiversity conservation at large level.

Foundation Species

  • Foundation species is used to refer to a species that has a strong role in structuring a community. A foundation species can occupy any trophic level in a food web (i.e., they can be primary producers, herbivores or predators).                      Determinants of the Behaviour of a Species—Genotype and Phenotype
  • The term ‘foundation species’ was coined by Paul K. Dayton in 1972, who applied it to certain members of marine invertebrates and algae communities.
  • Dayton’s view was that focusing on foundation species would allow for a simplified approach to more rapidly understand how a community as a whole would react to disturbances, such as pollution, instead of attempting the extremely difficult task of tracking the responses of all community members simultaneously.

Indicator Species

  • An indicator species is any biological species that defines a trait or characteristic of the environment.
  • For example, a species may delineate an ecoregion or indicate an environmental condition such as a disease outbreak, pollution, species competition or climate change.
  • Indicator species can be among the most sensitive species in a region, and sometimes act as an early warning to monitoring biologists.

Indigenous Species

  • In biogeography, a species is defined as indigenous or native to a given region or ecosystem, if its presence in that region is the result of only natural process, with no human intervention.
  • A species may be introduced by human activity; it is then referred to as an introduced species.

Endemic Species

  • In ecology, endemic means exclusively native to the particular region. An indigenous species may occur in areas other than the one under consideration. Thus, an indigenous species is not necessarily endemic.                  Determinants of the Behaviour of a Species—Genotype and Phenotype
  • The terms `endemic’ and ‘indigenous’ do not imply that an organism necessarily originated or evolved where it is found.

Introduced or Exotic Species

  • An introduced, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its native distributional range, which has arrived there by human activity, either deliberate or accidental.                    Determinants of the Behaviour of a Species—Genotype and Phenotype
  • Non-native species can have various effects on the local ecosystem.

Invasive Species

  • Introduced species that become established and spread beyond the place of introduction are called invasive species.
  • Most introduced species may have no negative effect or only minor impact. In some instances, the potential for being beneficial or detrimental in the long run remains unknown.

Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) Species

  • The EDGE species represent a disproportionate amount of unique evolutionary history.
  • They have few close relatives, or often the only surviving member of their genus, and sometimes the last surviving genus of their evolutionary family.
  • Some examples of EDGE species are elephants and pandas.

Umbrella Species

  • Umbrella species are species selected for making conservation-related decisions, typically because protecting these species indirectly protects many other species that make up the ecological community of its habitat.                    Determinants of the Behaviour of a Species—Genotype and Phenotype


Environment & Biodiversity

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