Ecological niche

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In ecology, a niche (pronounced /ˈniːʃ/ or /ˈnɪtʃ/)[1] is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food resources and foraging methods.[1] A shorthand definition of niche is how an organism makes a living. The ecological niche describes how an organism or population responds to the distribution of resources and competitors (e.g., by growing when resources are abundant, and when predators, parasites and pathogens are scarce) and how it in turn alters those same factors (e.g., limiting access to resources by other organisms, acting as a food source for predators and a consumer of prey).[2]

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Grinnelian Niche

The word "niche" is derived from the Middle French word nicher, meaning to nest. The term was coined by the naturalist Joseph Grinnell in 1917, in his paper "The niche relationships of the California Thrasher."[3] The Grinnelian niche concept embodies the idea that the niche of a species is determined by the habitat in which is lives in. In other words, the niche is the sum of the habitat requirements that allow a species to persist and produce offspring. For example, the behavior of the California Thrasher is consistent with the chaparral habitat it lives in—it breeds and feeds in the underbrush; and escapes from predators by shuffling from underbrush to underbrush.

This perspective of niche allows for the existence of ecological equivalents and also empty niches. For example, the anolis lizards of the Greater Antilles are a rare example of convergent evolution, adaptive radiation, and the existence of ecological equivalents—the anolis lizards evolved in similar microhabitats independently of each other and resulted in the same ecomorphs across all four islands.

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