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Profitable Wonders

Regulars | By James Le Fanu | October 2017

Mother Nature's organised family

‘No man is an island.’ Nor indeed are any of the thousands of billions of creatures with which we share our world.  Each of them – from humble bacterium to mighty whale – forms part of a more or less stable hierarchical community.   span class="Apple-converted-space">  ‘Food is the burning question in animal society,’ observed Charles Elton in his pioneering Animal Ecology, published in 1927, ‘and the whole structure and activities of the community centre on issues of food supply.’  He was the first to coin the now familiar term ‘niche’ to designate an animal’s position within a community, while drawing attention to how several different but equivalent species nonetheless happily coexist side by side.   The North American White Pine, for example, is host to no less than twenty different types of insect. But, rather than competing with each other, five eat only foliage, three concentrate on the buds...

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