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Competing species leave many potential niches unfilled [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : evolutionary ecology, evolutionary theory, theoretical ecology

par Frédéric Magné - publié le

A cornerstone of biology is that coexisting species evolve to occupy separate ecological niches. Classical theory predicts that interspecific competition should lead to all potential niches being occupied, yet observational data suggest that many niches are unfilled. Here we show that theory can be reconciled with observational data by reconceptualizing competition in the Hutchinsonian niche space to distinguish between substitutable and non-substitutable resources. When resources are substitutable (for example, seeds of different size), the components of competition along the niche axes combine multiplicatively, leading to a densely packed niche space. However, when resources are non-substitutable (such as seeds and nest sites), we show that the components of competition combine additively.(...)

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