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I'm trying to get/renew basic knowledge of species. Could someone recommend a book for surveying "important"/"representational" species? I am looking for a book with good illustrations and that covers most "important"/"representational" species.

I am currently reading The Tree of Life: A Phylogenetic Classification, and it is thicker than I want to read as a first book in this kind.

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The book you are using is the one I was going to recommend. With perhaps 8.7 million species (plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001127), there is no short route. –  kmm Jan 16 '12 at 0:02
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If you are OK with a web solution, this answer (biology.stackexchange.com/a/395/107) might be useful. –  kmm Jan 16 '12 at 1:19
    
Most general surveys of species I've seen (in school, for instance) tend to go through the phyla (for animals) and the divisions (for plants) and looks at the general characteristics of each group. Would that be sufficient for your needs? –  Gaurav Mar 7 '12 at 9:06
    
Yes. That will be sufficient for my needs. –  Problemaniac Mar 7 '12 at 13:35
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Judging from your response to Gurav in the comments, it sounds like introductory zoology and plant biology texts would fit the bill.

For zoology, we teach from Hickman et al's Integrated Principles of Zoology. It outlines the major phyla, their defining characteristics, with plenty of specific examples scattered throughout. There are nice little problem sets throughout, and it goes into a solid amount of detail for a first or second year zoology course.

For plants, I've used Graham et al's Plant Biology, which takes a similar general approach. Though it's perhaps a bit broader, and less species-focused.

Both of these books outline the major relevant groups, and use 'representative' species to illustrate various biological points throughout. They might be a good place to start!

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