by Staff Writers
Montreal, Canada (SPX) Nov 30, 2011
Animals like foxes and raccoons are highly adaptable. They move around and eat everything from insects to eggs. They and other "generalist feeders" like them may also be crucial to sustaining biological diversity, according to a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
McGill biology researchers have developed a unified, spatially based understanding of biodiversity that takes into account the complex food webs of predators and prey.
"Biodiversity exists within a landscape. Predators and prey are continuously on the move as their habitats change - it's a complex dynamic system," says lead author Pradeep Pillai, a doctoral candidate at McGill.
Previous theories of biodiversity have either concentrated on the complex network of feeding interactions that connects all species into food webs or have focused on the way that species are connected in space.
"A unified theory of ecological diversity requires understanding how species interact both in space and time, and this is what is different about our work," explains co-author Michel Loreau, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Community and Ecosystem Ecology.
What they discovered was that a "branching network" maintained by generalist species, like foxes or coyotes, that are able to move around and prey on different species in different locations, have an important role in promoting complex food webs and thereby in maintaining biodiversity.
The researchers concluded that these generalist species have the advantage of being able to find prey no matter where they are as they move from one place to another, and this sustains the network.
This theory also lays a foundation for understanding the effects human activities - like deforestation - are likely to have not simply on a single species but on whole food webs. The researchers show how food webs are eroded by species extinction when disturbed by habitat destruction.
"The theory is useful because it helps us understand how biodiversity is maintained, but also the impacts humans have when they disrupt ecological networks by destroying and fragmenting habitat," concludes co-author Andrew Gonzalez, Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity Science and Director of the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science.
This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Fonds quebecois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies.
To read an abstract of the paper click here.
Darwin Today At TerraDaily.com
Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.
Studying bat skulls, evolutionary biologists discover how species evolve
Amherst MA (SPX) Nov 29, 2011
A new study involving bat skulls, bite force measurements and scat samples collected by an international team of evolutionary biologists is helping to solve a nagging question of evolution: Why some groups of animals develop scores of different species over time while others evolve only a few. Their findings appear in the current issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|