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Race vs. Species: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 12, 2023
Race refers to variations within a species based on physical and genetic traits. Species refers to a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.

Key Differences

Race and species are terms used in biology. Race often refers to subgroups within a species characterized by specific physical traits and genetic differences. In contrast, species is a broader term, referring to a group of organisms that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, distinguishing them from other such groups.
The concept of race is more subjective and variable. While race in humans is often considered based on physical attributes like skin color, hair type, or facial features, these characteristics are less rigid and can overlap. On the other hand, species is a more scientifically defined term, indicating a clear boundary based on reproductive compatibility.
Race is typically a human-focused term. It's used to categorize people into distinct groups, often with cultural and social implications. In contrast, species is a universal biological term applicable to all living organisms, from plants to animals, defining groups based on their reproductive isolation.
The significance of race and species varies. Racial distinctions can be important in medical research, understanding genetics, and addressing social issues. In contrast, defining a species is crucial in biological classification, conservation efforts, and understanding the evolutionary relationships between organisms.
Race can be fluid, while species is more fixed. The classification of races can change over time and differ across cultures and perspectives. In contrast, species classification, although sometimes revised, is based on more stable biological criteria like genetics, morphology, and reproductive behavior.

Comparison Chart


Subgroup within a species based on physical and genetic characteristics.
A group of organisms that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.


Mostly applied to humans for categorizing variations.
Applied universally to all living organisms.


Physical attributes, cultural and genetic traits.
Reproductive compatibility, genetic isolation.


Fluid, varies over time and cultures.
More stable, based on biological criteria.


Sociocultural and genetic significance.
Biological classification, evolutionary relationships.

Race and Species Definitions


In biology, race denotes subspecies or a genetically distinct population within a species.
The race of wolves found in the Arctic has thicker fur compared to other wolf populations.


Species refers to a group of similar organisms sharing common characteristics and genetic makeup.
The species of oak tree in this region is known for its extraordinary height and longevity.


Race refers to a group of people identified by shared physical or social qualities.
The race known for their tall stature and blonde hair celebrated their unique cultural festival.


A species is a population with members that have similar abilities to survive, reproduce, and adapt.
This species of fish has adapted to thrive in both fresh and saltwater environments.


Race, in a broader sense, includes any group of people united by shared history, language, or cultural heritage.
The festival was a vibrant celebration of the diverse races and cultures present in the city.


Species encompasses groups of organisms that share a common evolutionary history and lineage.
Researchers studied how environmental changes impacted the bird species native to the island.


Race can imply a group of individuals with a common lineage.
The ancient race of warriors was renowned for their bravery and skill in battle.


A species is a group of living organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.
The tiger and lion are different species, distinguished by their physical and genetic traits.


In sociological terms, race often categorizes humans based on shared ancestry and physical characteristics.
Discussions on race and identity formed a key part of the social studies curriculum.


In taxonomy, species is the basic unit of biological classification.
The discovery of a new species in the rainforest excited the scientific community.


A group of people identified as distinct from other groups because of supposed physical or genetic traits shared by the group. Most biologists and anthropologists do not recognize race as a biologically valid classification, in part because there is more genetic variation within groups than between them.


(Biology) A group of closely related organisms that are very similar to each other and are usually capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. The species is the fundamental category of taxonomic classification, ranking below a genus or subgenus. Species names are represented in binomial nomenclature by an uncapitalized Latin adjective or noun following a capitalized genus name, as in Ananas comosus, the pineapple, and Equus caballus, the horse.


A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution
The Celtic race.


(Logic) A class of individuals or objects grouped by virtue of their common attributes and assigned a common name; a division subordinate to a genus.


What is the difference between race and ethnicity?

Race is typically associated with physical characteristics, while ethnicity relates to cultural identity and heritage.

Can race change over time?

Yes, the conception of race can evolve over time within societies.

How many races are there?

The number of races is not fixed and can vary based on cultural, societal, and individual perspectives.

Is race a scientific classification?

Modern science views race more as a social construct than a scientific categorization.

How does race affect society?

Race can significantly influence social dynamics, including opportunities, social interactions, and discrimination.

What does 'race' mean?

Race refers to a classification of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct within a given society.

Is race biologically determined?

Race is not a rigid biological category but a social construct that can vary across cultures and over time.

What is a species?

A species is a group of living organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.

How many species exist on Earth?

Estimates vary, but there are millions of species, many of which are yet to be discovered or classified.

What is racial diversity?

Racial diversity refers to the presence and representation of multiple races within a community or society.

What distinguishes one species from another?

Different species are typically unable to produce fertile offspring together and have distinct genetic characteristics.

How are new species discovered?

New species are often discovered through field research, exploration, and advances in scientific methods.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity refers to the variety of species within a specific ecosystem or on the planet as a whole.

Is race the same worldwide?

No, race classifications and perceptions vary significantly around the world.

Can individuals belong to multiple races?

Yes, individuals can identify with multiple races, particularly in societies with diverse populations.

What is an endangered species?

An endangered species is one at risk of extinction due to environmental factors or human activities.

Can species interbreed?

Generally, different species cannot interbreed, but there are exceptions like hybrids in closely related species.

Why is species conservation important?

Conserving species is vital for maintaining ecological balance, preserving genetic diversity, and ensuring sustainable environments.

Can species evolve into new species?

Yes, through a process known as speciation, where evolutionary processes lead to the creation of new species.

Are species the same as breeds?

No, breeds are specific varieties within a species, especially domesticated animals, while species are broader biological classifications.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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