Investigations of adult neurogenesis in recent years have revealed numerous differences among mammalian species, reflecting the remarkable diversity in brain anatomy and function of mammals. As a mechanism of brain plasticity, adult neurogenesis might also differ due to behavioural specialization or adaptation to specific ecological niches. Because most research has focused on rodents and only limited data are available on other mammalian orders, it is hotly debated whether, in some species, adult neurogenesis also takes place outside of the well-characterized subventricular zone of the lateral ventricle and subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus. In particular, evidence for the functional integration of new neurons born in ‘non-neurogenic’ zones is controversial. Considering the promise of adult neurogenesis for regenerative medicine, we posit that differences in the extent, regional occurrence and completion of adult neurogenesis need to be considered from a species-specific perspective. In this review, we provide examples underscoring that the mechanisms of adult neurogenesis cannot simply be generalized to all mammalian species. Despite numerous similarities, there are distinct differences, notably in neuronal maturation, survival and functional integration in existing synaptic circuits, as well as in the nature and localization of neural precursor cells. We also propose a more appropriate use of terminology to better describe these differences and their relevance for brain plasticity under physiological and pathophysiological conditions. In conclusion, we emphasize the need for further analysis of adult neurogenesis in diverse mammalian species to fully grasp the spectrum of variation of this adaptative mechanism in the adult CNS.