A niche is a role or job any organism plays in the community it lives in (Kevin Laland, Blake Matthews, Marcus W Feldman, 2015). It explains how a living organism interacts with other living organisms in the ecological system. This includes its place of residence, what it consumes, and what consumes it. It can, therefore, be affected by several behaviors. The first is competition. Competition is a form of interaction between living organisms where species compete for the same ecosystem resource. Competition can be between species of the same or different kind (Odling-Smee, Laland, & Feldman, 2016). Competition between individuals of the same kind is called intraspecific competition while competition between different types of members is called interspecific competition. Competition affects the ecological niche of an organism through the competitive exclusion principle (Robert M. Pringle, 2017). The principle states that two species cannot occupy the same ecological niche and environment for a long time.
The second behavior is predation. This involves an organism killing another for food (Robert M. Pringle, 2017). Generally, predation has a negative impact on the niche of the prey. This is because the prey population reduces and the role of the prey in the eco system is left with no organism to perform it (Robert M. Pringle, 2017). A good example is when lions consume most of the antelopes in a place. This causes them to reduce in number, and the remaining ones are forced to flee to another area living the grass to grow with very few other organisms to consume it.
Mega herbivores refer to the large herbivores, which usually weigh more than a thousand kilograms (Robert M. Pringle, 2017). Niche construction, on the other hand, is the process where an organism changes its local environment or the local environment of another organism. Mega herbivores in Africa show niche construction in different ways. The first way is through their feeding methods. Due to their large size, they can consume a lot of food. This includes fruits that have seeds. Since the seeds on such seeds are indigestible, the seeds are transferred to other areas where they grow and develop, thus changing the place’s environment. Mega herbivores are very strong due to their size. This means that they can cause a lot of destruction everywhere they go. By doing so, they can create paths and open fields where trees and vegetation existed before (Robert M. Pringle, 2017). The third way megaherbivores show niche construction is by changing the climate of an area (Robert M. Pringle, 2017). This occurs when they completely damage the vegetation of a place that received rainfall before. This means that since there are no plants to lose moisture to the environment, no rain can form, and thus the area becomes dry.
Niche construction theory states that an organism influences its evolution by being both the object of natural selection and the creator of that selection’s conditions (Kevin Laland, Blake Matthews, Marcus W Feldman, 2015). The theory has some strengths and weaknesses as it tries to explain the evolution of different ecosystems. Its first strength is that it describes how diverse landscapes have changed due to the interaction between humans and animals (Kevin Laland, Blake Matthews, Marcus W Feldman, 2015). As humans continue to cultivate, the size of forests reduces, causing the animals’ food to reduce. This causes the animals to adapt to new feeding methods or even consume new foods, thus changing their feed. The next strength is that the theory helps us understand why man targets specific animals for domestication and not all animals. Even with the strengths, the theory still has weaknesses. The first weakness is that the theory is not equivalent to natural selection (Kevin Laland, Blake Matthews, Marcus W Feldman, 2015). The second weakness is that the theory does not tell whether environments adapt to organisms systematically.
Kevin Laland, Blake Matthews, Marcus W Feldman, G. (2015). An introduction to Niche construction theory. Springerlink.com.
Robert M. Pringle, C. (2017). Ecology: Megaherbivores Homogenize the Landscape of Fear.
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