Competition — Untamed Science
It’s a struggle, a fight, two entities opposing each other for a desired outcome. We see the forces of competition at work in our everyday lives- feuding political parties, commercial product markets, rivaling athletics. Competition happens when two parties want the same thing, but there isn’t enough of it to go around…so they compete for it.
What Do Organisms Compete For?
Organisms compete for the resources they need to survive- air, water, food, and space. In areas where these are sufficient, organisms live in comfortable co-existence, and in areas where resources are abundant, the ecosystem boasts high species richness (diversity). The more generalist an organism is, the better chances it has to co-exist with its conspecifics (other members of the same species) and other taxa. Animals and plants that have specific life history requirements, like cavity-nesting birds, plants with ph-specific soil requisites, or animals with obligate feeding behaviors, have a more difficult time competing. These resources can be limiting factors for where organisms are distributed, and competition for them can be fierce.
Types of Competition
A fundamental concept in ecology is the competitive exclusion principle. This states that two species with similar ecological niches cannot exist sympatrically (in the same environment). One will always out-compete the other, so the more competitive species will stay and the subordinate one will either adapt or be excluded (by either emigration or extinction). While competition in the natural world is eminent, it doesn’t always happen in the same way.
Interspecific competition is when different animals that live in the same geographic area (sympatric species) compete for the same set of resources, mostly food and space. Intraspecific competition is when different species compete with each other, usually for more specific requirements like mates and nesting/denning sites. Direct competition occurs when individuals compete with each other directly for the same resource, ie: two bull moose battling for access to a single female. Indirect competition occurs when organisms use the same resource, but don’t necessarily interact with each other- for example, diurnal cheetahs and nocturnal leopards using the same waterhole in a grassland savanna. Interference competition is when there is a deliberate displacement of individuals by their competitor. The less competitive individuals are forced to go elsewhere to find resources. Studies have shown, however, that if the more competitive animals leave, the displaced individuals will return. Exploitation competition is more subtle. This occurs when a species’ survival or reproduction is suppressed because of the presence of a staunch competitor. There is no actual displacement, as the competitive pressure manifests itself through a reduction in an individual’s ability to survive and reproduce.
Forces of Competition
When an animal has found a space that contains all the resources it needs to survive, it wants to hold on to it. This is why many animals are territorial; they defend their territory which contains those resources. Animals defend territories for many different types of resources: a convenient source of fresh water, an ample supply of vegetation, proximity to a stable source of prey, denning sites, etc. Animals advertise their ownership of these territories by visual and chemical signals that deter their competitors from encroaching on their turf. If these signals are ignored, and the boundaries of the territory are breached, a territorial battle is sure to ensue.
Animals exhibit aggressive behavior when one of their resources is compromised. Males may compete over an existing territory, available females, nesting sites, or breeding rights in a social hierarchy. Defensive behaviors often lead to aggression if problems can’t be sorted out through threatening displays or intimidation. In most cases, animals would prefer to avoid antagonistic encounters because it requires a huge expenditure of energy to participate in an aggressive interaction, but the resources they are aiming to protect are vital enough that they are willing to risk it if necessary.
Competition of the Herbivorous Kind
Competition isn’t just a phenomenon in the animal world; plants compete with each other too. They need adequate sunlight, soil nutrients, and fresh water to survive. Though they are stationary, they still have ways of combating each other. Over time plants have evolved ingenious ways of procuring sunlight, attracting pollinators, and obtaining fresh water. They may take an offensive approach, responding to the competition head-on, or a defensive approach, making modifications to increase their chances of survival and reproduction. For example, when sunlight is the limiting factor, some forest trees grow rapidly to tower over their competitors and absorb the most sunlight, others channel their energy into producing many seeds and attempting to spread them so that they increase the chances of their offspring landing in a well-lit area. Plants have developed all kinds of competitive strategies from storing nutrients to becoming parasites to developing disease resistance.
How to Avoid Competition- Isolate Yourself
Nature is am amazing beast; it has mechanisms in place to allow species to exist in the same place at the same time using the similar resources. This is the beauty of niche separation and is the answer to the competitive exclusion principle. Different species have different life requirements, eat different foods, live in different habitats, and behave differently, all in the name of sharing resources. Sometimes, however, there is just no way around it, organisms have to share the same resources, and in this instance, nature has the uncanny ability to adapt. So if you’re an animal or a plant that can’t hack the competition, your best bet is to avoid it, and plants and animals have developed some pretty clever ways to isolate themselves from each other.
One method of isolation is geographic isolation- not being in the same place at the same time. Animals that are geographically separated have a better chance of obtaining the resources they need. This isolation can occur through animals having different geographic distributions or by participating in seasonal migrations. Geographic separators might be an expanse of land, a mountain range, a body of water, or an elevation gradient.
This occurs when animals have contradictory behaviors that prevent them from competing with each other. For example, by day, birds rule the air. They forage, maintain territories, reproduce, and compete with each other for the best available resources. By night, however, bats rule the roost. Come dusk there is a taxonomic tango when the diurnal (active by day) organisms retire for the evening and the nocturnal (active by night) organisms commence their daily follies. By the cover of night nocturnal organisms avoid competitive interactions with their diurnal counterparts. In some ecosystems, the nightly taxonomic exchange is quite the spectacle. Certain night-blooming flowers open their blossoms to be pollinated by bats. Insects emerge to forage after spending the day avoiding hungry birds.
Foraging habits are another way that organisms can avert competing with each other. Take raptors for example. A red-tailed hawk is a generalist predator; they eat anything from rodents to reptiles to other birds. They are good competitors with other birds of prey because they consume a wide variety of prey so their options are many. Specialist predators, however, like the osprey, which eats strictly fish, are limited in their prey selection as well as their geographic range because they have to live in areas where their prey resides. Take two similar animals then that inhabit the same geographic area and eat the same type of food…what then? Herbivorous rhinos deal with this conundrum by consuming different parts of plants. White rhinos have flat, wide lips for grazing grasses while black rhinos have pointed, dexterous lips for browsing shrubs.
The lip morphology of rhinos is an evolutionary expression of a behavioral trait that separated rhinos long ago. Today there are many animals that have morphological differences that directly allow them to avoid competition with other organisms. Like giraffes who’s browse line is way above that of the other browsers it resides with, and hyenas whose jaw structure and musculature is strong enough to consume the hides and bones of carcasses left behind by other predators. Sometimes isolation mechanisms influence each other, adding another impediment to competition. Organisms that have been geographically separated for long periods of time can evolve morphological and behavioral changes that prevent them from breeding with each other.
All these methods of isolation are changes that have occurred over many generations. Organisms have evolved over time to avoid competition and the changes have become incorporated in their life histories. The most awesome thing about evolution is that it never stops! As the environment changes and new stressors are added to an ecosystem, that pressure influences organisms to change, thus making them better competitors.
Competition plays a very important role in ecology and evolution. The best competitors are the ones who survive and get to pass on their genes. Their progeny (offspring) will have an increased chance of survival because their parents out-competed their conspecifics. The best competitors have the best fitness, which is a measure of the genes that are passed on to succeeding generations. So the best competitors are the best survivors, which have more offspring, which means that more competitive genes are perpetuated in the gene pool. It is important to note that these changes occur over very long periods of time and the life history characteristics of organisms we see today are the results of changes that happened over millennia.
The Trade Off
These rewards are not without consequence. Sometimes being a good competitor in one area means that you are lacking in another. Take Australian lyrebirds for example. They have long, beautiful tail plumes as ornaments to attract female mates. The longer, more colorful their feathers are, the better competitors they are among other males, but this also means that they are more conspicuous. A colorful bird with long, elaborate feathers is not hard to miss, particularly when he is dancing and calling to attract a mate. The very characteristics that make him a good competitor among his male counterparts are also a detriment to him as they also attract potential predators. The question then becomes…is advertising for female mates worth the risk of being discovered by a predator? What do you think?
According to the ‘closed community concept’ in the world of bird behavior, established communities are one way to avoid competition. For example, when an aggregation of birds can successfully co-exist without significantly compromising each other’s ability to acquire resources, they prefer this stability. By maintaining the community they resist invasion by other potential competitors. Communities can be made up of a single species, or there can be mixed species colonies.
Mixed seabird colony- great crested terns and brown boobies
Kia Island, Fiji
Competition as a Regulator
When two organisms or populations compete with each other, whether it be directly or indirectly, one of several outcomes can be expected. In extreme cases one population (or individual) out-competes the other and the ‘losing’ organism becomes extinct from the area. If, however, the competition event is spread over time and the losing animal has time to respond and recover, they may relocate to another geographic area (emigrate). If the losing organism is not displaced, it may change its behavior or requirements to utilize different resources so that it is no longer in competition with its opponent.
Intraspecific competition can serve as a regulator for population size. If a particular source of prey, or abiotic habitat feature is not readily available, then competition for the ones that are will be heavy. If the requirements are scarce enough, this will cause the population to remain stable, or decrease. If resources are readily available, then competition will be low and a population may increase.
Sometimes competition can have a serious impact on an ecosystem, especially when invasive or exotic species are involved. When non-native organisms colonize a new area, they are sometimes better suited to compete with native organisms for resources. Once able to overcome the transition of the relocation, they can become very successful and out-compete native organisms, causing their populations to decline, or in extreme cases, become locally extinct.
As the human population continues to increase, humans are in competition with nature. Our requirements for survival are just as basic as those of plants and animals. We breathe the same air, drink the same water, and use the same space. Fortunately for us, we have intellect, which is the greatest competitive advantage to be had. We can use our brains to build tools and technologies that make us seemingly undefeatable. Unfortunately for us, our utilitarian attitude has cost us millions and millions of acres in forests, wetlands, coral reefs, and other precious habitats around the globe. While we might not be directly competing with plants and animals for food or potential mates, we are indirectly competing with them by consuming space, and while our population is increasing, theirs are declining.
Humans directly compete with animals also; a prime example is the global overfishing conundrum. Oceans world-wide are experiencing massive declines in fish populations due to human over-harvest. Commercial fishing operations are way better suited to fish for prized commercial fish like tuna, cod, salmon, and crustaceans like shrimp and lobster. People out-competing natural predators means that we are taking too many, too rapidly, and populations of predator and prey are suffering.
The Big Picture
Understanding competition is a huge component of ecology. The way organisms compete with each other determines species distributions, population dynamics, community structure, food webs, and social dominance hierarchies. Competitive interactions over time manifest themselves in physical and behavioral adaptations that shape the evolution of a species. Human activity, invasive species, climate change, and environmental pressure are constant stressors on ecosystems, making resources less available and of less quality. These stressors affect the way that organisms compete with each other and their ability to survive and co-exist.
Even Dr. Seuss Understood the Complexities of Competition
And NUH is the letter I use to spell Nutches,
Who live in small caves, known as Niches, for hutches.
These Nutches have troubles, the biggest of which is
The fact there are many more Nutches than Niches.
Each Nutch in a Nich knows that some other Nutch
Would like to move into his Nich very much.
So each Nutch in a Nich has to watch that small Nich
Or Nutches who haven’t got Niches will snitch.
Dr. Seuss – On Beyond Zebra (1955)
Questions to Ponder???
If an animal in a given habitat has a similar ecological niche to another species, how would direct competition influence their interactions?
What possible outcomes could there be if an exotic species is accidentally introduced to a stable, mixed-bird community?
Can you give an example of another way that humans compete with nature?
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Types of Competition and its Definition
An ecosystem comprises the biotic and abiotic factors present in a particular environment. It includes abiotic factors like rock, soil, water, etc., as well as biotic factors like populations of different species of plants and animals living and interacting with each other in a particular area.
Organisms that live together in an ecosystem interact with other living organisms and also with non-living factors. These interactions are mainly done to find food, water, space, mates, etc.
A population is a group of interacting animals of the same species. A community is a group of interacting animals of different species.
Types of interactions:
Ecologists have studied various interactions between animals and described three main relationships through which species and individuals affect each other.
They are as follows:
- Predatory and prey relationships
- Competitive relationships
- Symbiotic relationships
We have already studied the prey and predatory relationships. The animals that eat other animals in order to obtain energy are called predators. The animal that gets eaten is the prey. This type of relationship usually occurs within a community and not a population. This type of relationship mainly takes place in order to obtain energy or food.
Competition is a type of interaction that occurs when two or more individuals in a population or in a community try to use the same resources.
These resources may include:
- Mates, etc.
An ecosystem can support only a limited number of living organisms. There are limited amounts of food, water, sunlight, shelter, and other resources. As a result, organisms struggle and fight against one another to obtain what they need for survival. This struggle is competition. It is the attempt by which organisms try to obtain a resource that is available in a limited supply.
Competition for food:
Animals of the same species or of different species compete with each other for food if they are living in the same environment. The food resource in any environment is limited, and in order to survive, animals have to compete. For example, these two wild dogs are fighting for the same food source, i.e., the deer.
Competition for space:
Organisms living in the wild do not always have enough living space. The Gila woodpecker, for example, makes its nest by drilling a hole in a saguaro cactus. Woodpeckers must compete with each other for nesting spots. If the available nesting spaces are limited, some woodpeckers would not be able to raise their young ones. Sometimes organisms of different species also compete for the same space. For example, if a Gila woodpecker abandons its nest, owls, flycatchers, snakes, and lizards may compete for the shelter of the empty hole.
Competition for mates:
Organisms of the same population can also compete with each other for mates during reproductive seasons. For example, male kangaroos fight during the breeding season for mating purposes.
A lot of animals have developed courtship rituals in order to attract mates. All animals perform courtship rituals, but only the animal that has mastered the art of courtship rituals gets selected and wins in this competition.
Competition for water:
Organisms living together in an ecosystem make use of the same resources. For example, a water body in an ecosystem is used by all animals like the tiger, lion, zebra, deer, etc. If this resource becomes scarce, a competition will be created. This type of competition usually occurs when there is a disturbance in the ecosystem created by natural calamities like drought, excessive heat, etc.
Competition for sunlight:
Similar to animals, plants compete for food, water and space. Along with that, they also compete for sunlight. Sunlight is essential for photosynthesis which is required for growth and survival. The taller and larger trees receive more amount of sunlight. As a result, the trees that grow near the taller trees are not able to receive enough amount of light and hence their growth is affected.
Types of competition:
Competition can be divided into two different types depending on the interacting individuals. They are as follows:
- Intraspecific competition: it takes place between members of the same species.
- Interspecific competition: it takes place between members of different species.
In ecology, interspecific competition is a type of competition in which individuals belonging to different species struggle for the same resources (e.g., food or living space) in an ecosystem.
Consider the example of a tree; if a tree species in a large and dense forest grows taller compared to the surrounding tree species, it is able to absorb more amount of the incoming sunlight.
Due to this, less sunlight is then available for the trees that are shaded by the taller tree; thus, interspecific competition can be seen.
Animals can also be in interspecific competition. For example, cheetahs and lions both feed on the same prey and can get involved in interspecific competition. These species are negatively impacted by the presence of the other because they will have less food.
Intraspecific competition takes place in a community and not in a population. In this, animals compete for food, water and space. Animals do not compete for mates.
Effects of interspecific competition:
When two animals compete for a single resource, one often gets hurt. Interspecific competition can lead to the extinction of one or both species. The species that are less well adapted may get fewer resources, and as a result, members of that species may go extinct. It promotes diversification of niche.
In ecology, intraspecific competition is an interaction whereby members of the same species compete for limited resources.
It is more severe as compared to the interspecific competition because members of the same species have very similar resources and requirements when compared to members of different species.
For example, a population of fruit-eating birds will compete for the same fruit and same surroundings. Whereas two different species of birds may have different requirements for food, space, etc.
In intraspecific competition, individuals can compete for food, water, space, light, mates or any other resource which is required for survival.
Effects of intraspecific competition:
Intraspecific competition may also lead to extinction. However, it is observed that intraspecific competition leads to greater specialization. Specialization occurs when the competing species develop different adaptations. For example, they may develop adaptations that allow them to use different food sources.
Specialization in Anole Lizards:
Most of the species of Anole Lizards prey on insects in the tropical rainforests. Competition between these species has led to the evolution of certain specializations. Some Anoles eat insects found on the forest floor. While others prey on insects found on trees. This allows various species of Anoles to live in the same area without competing with each other for food.
- An ecosystem comprises the biotic and abiotic factors present in a particular environment
- Organisms that live together in an ecosystem interact with other living organisms and also with non-living factors. These interactions are mainly done to find food, water, space, mates, etc.
- Three main relationships through which species and individuals affect each other are as follows:
- 1. Predatory and prey relationships
- 2. Competitive relationships
- 3. Symbiotic relationships
- Competition is a type of interaction that occurs when two or more individuals in a population or in a community try to use the same resources.
- An ecosystem can support only a limited number of living organisms. There are limited amounts of food, water, sunlight, shelter, and other resources. .
- As a result, organisms struggle and fight against one another to obtain what they need for survival. This struggle is competition.
- Competition can be divided into two different types depending on the interacting individuals.
- Interspecific competition is a type of competition in which individuals belonging to different species struggle for the same resources in an ecosystem.
- Intraspecific competition takes place in a community and not in a population.
- In this, animals compete for food, water and space. Animals do not compete for mates.
- Interspecific competition can lead to the extinction of one or both species. The species that are less well adapted may get fewer resources, and as a result, members of that species may go extinct.
- Intraspecific competition is an interaction whereby members of the same species compete for limited resources.
- It is more severe as compared to the interspecific competition because members of the same species have very similar resources and requirements.
- Individuals compete for food, water, space, light, mates or any other resource.
- Intraspecific competition may also lead to extinction. However, it is observed that intraspecific competition leads to greater specialization.
- Specialization occurs when the competing species develop different adaptations.
The most jumping animals — ZooPicture.ru
Trying to overtake the victim or fleeing from the pursuer, representatives of the animal world practically become participants in the all-around. Either they rush at full speed, rapidly changing the trajectory of movement, or they overcome various obstacles through which they have to jump, overcoming considerable distances.
Such daily competitions improve animals, keep them in shape and hone their skills, elevating them to the rank of real champions in the animal world. Some of them are better at jumping high, while others, on the contrary, are better at long jumps. A good jump often envy life and the animal itself. So which animal world is the most jumpy?
flickr/Fish as art
Chum salmon (lat. Oncorhynchus keta ) is a large and valuable commercial fish from the salmon family. During the spawning period, it is able to jump out of the water (jumping over river rapids) at a distance of up to 3.5-3.65 meters in height.
Cheetahs (lat. Acinonyx jubatus ) are the best runners on the planet. With good speed, a cheetah can fly a distance of about 6-9meters. Interestingly, the cheetah spends only 1/2 second on one such jump. The body length of the predator is from 115 to 140 cm. be as long (7.5-10 m), and in height (from 2.5 to 3 meters). They easily maneuver among the vegetation of the savannah, moving away from pursuit, but more often they prefer good cover. Thanks to their graceful forms and color, they are almost invisible in dense grass.
Tiger (lat. Panthera tigris ) is one of the largest predatory cats in the world, it is also called the «master of the taiga» or «nightmare of the jungle.»
The tiger has its own unique style of hunting. He will never exchange for a fussy chase and hurdles, preferring waiting tactics and the strongest throw — the long jump. With one jump, he overcomes a distance of up to 10 meters.
These cephalopods, escaping from the sperm whale, quite often jump out of the water to a height of 7 to 10 m. By making such jumps they are able to cover a distance of up to 50 meters.
Puma, or cougar, mountain lion (lat. Puma concolor ) is a resident of North and South America.
With considerable dimensions (length — 100-180 cm, weight — up to 105 kg), this cat is capable of jumping up to 2 meters in length and up to 4 meters in height. And this is not surprising, since the cougar lives in forests among the mountains. Among other things, she runs very well (up to 50 km/h) and swims.
Big dolphin or bottlenose dolphin (lat. Tursiops truncatus ) is a marine mammal from the dolphin family. With a body length of 2.3-3 m, this dolphin can jump out of the water to a height of 6 meters, and in length overcome (in a jump) a distance of up to 9 m. lat Equus ) are those animals that can “boast” of their extraordinary abilities. A thoroughbred horse is able to jump 8 m in length. A horse named Samting managed to take a length of 8.4 meters, which became a real record among horses. But in the high jump, the horse Guaso became the best, who easily took a height of 2.47 meters, and this happened at 1949 year. Since then, these records have not been broken.
Giant kangaroo (lat. Macropus giganteus ) is one of the largest marsupial animals living in Australia. Everyone knows that the kangaroo can jump, but most often it moves calmly, relying on all four paws. However, if the kangaroo nevertheless decides to accelerate, then he will not find equals: he moves in jumps — 9-12 meters in length and about 3 meters in height. Record jump — 13.64 m.
Cat flea (lat. Ctenocephalides felis ) is a blood-sucking insect, which of course cannot compete with the animals already listed, but if we compare the size of the flea itself and the distance it is capable of jump, then everything will change immediately. This insect can jump up to 34-35 cm, which exceeds its own height by almost 130 times! In length, the flea jumps over a distance of 60 times its own body length.
Slobber slobber (lat. Philaenus spumarius ) is an insect belonging to the family of slobber cicadas (lat. Aphrophoridae ). This small (5-6.7 mm) insect outdid the flea itself. Scientists managed to establish that the penny is able to jump to a height of up to 60-70 cm. . Just imagine that if this insect were the size of a person, it could easily jump over a skyscraper. Impressive, isn’t it?!
For some living creatures, jumping is a common way of transportation, for others it is a life-saving straw, but for most of them it is another way to overcome all sorts of obstacles. Without this skill, many of them would have had a hard time.
Wake up your imagination and imagine that we are invited to the extraordinary Olympic Games, in which not people compete, but … animals. Who runs the fastest, jumps farthest, swims better than others? Here, let’s see. Let’s start with the running competition.
Animal running champion is known — this is a cheetah. It develops a speed of more than 100 km / h, no worse than a car. A human runner, whether he is a sprinter of sprinters, can only envy. And we, the audience, let’s think about how it was possible to establish in this way that the cheetah is the fastest? After all, our competitions are imaginary…
To date, the maximum distance that a frog managed to cover in a triple jump is 10.3 m. It was overcome at the championship in South Africa in 1977 by a representative of the sharp-winged breed named Santier. The longest jump of the three is 3.6 m long.