Blackwell Publishing

The idea of a species - What is the ecological species concept?


The ecological species concept

The ecological species concept is a concept of species in which a species is a set of organisms adapted to a particular set of resources, called a niche, in the environment.

According to this concept, populations form the discrete phenetic clusters that we recognize as species because the ecological and evolutionary processes controlling how resources are divided up tend to produce those clusters.

Ecological research, particularly with closely related species living in the same area, has abundantly demonstrated that the differences between species in form and behavior are often related to differences in the ecological resources the species exploit.

The image opposite illustrates the idea of the ecological species concept: this stick insect has distinct phenetic characters adapted to inhabit its specific ecological niche.

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