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Native Species: Definition, Examples & Quiz

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Taught by

Sarah Friedl

Sarah has a Master's degree in Zoology and a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

What makes a species native? Are non-native species the same as invasive species? Native species are specially adapted to fit their environment and live in the same place where they originated.

Definition

You may not be living in the same place you were born, or even the same place you grew up. But you likely still call that place 'home.' Like you, other plant and animal species may live far from where they originated. Those that do live in the same place they are originally from are called native species.

Native species are considered to be native only if they originated in their location naturally, and without the involvement of human activity or intervention. This usually means that those species evolved and are adapted to living in that particular environment, but this is not always the case.

Introduced species (non-native) are those that have been introduced by humans, either accidentally or intentionally. Once a species has become too pervasive in an environment, it is said to be invasive. Both native and introduced species can be invasive.

Examples

There are two types of native species, indigenous and endemic. Indigenous species are native species that are found in multiple locations, whereas endemic species are only found in a specific, unique location. We often find endemic species in geographically isolated areas such as islands. Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands are both home to a host of endemic species that aren't found anywhere else on Earth.

Some native species have multiple 'homes' due to migration, and birds are a great example of this. Many species of birds use the Atlantic coast as a migration route, stopping for food and rest along the way. Other birds are native to the northern part of the United States in the summer, but choose to reside in the south during the winter.

Plant species can also be native or introduced. While plants do not migrate, they are easily transported by humans, and many introduced species have become invasive due to human actions. The kudzu plant in the Southeastern United States and the buckthorn plant in the Midwest are both examples of introduced, invasive species.

The invasive kudzu plant
kudzu

Summary

Native species are plants and animals that originated and live in an area without any human intervention. Non-native species have been introduced by humans, and often become invasive. Native species are either endemic or indigenous, and are often considered native in multiple locations throughout the year due to migration.

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