Dr. Paul Colinvaux


"Every species has its niche" (1978)




Niche is from the Italian word nicio, meaning a recessed enclosure.


An ecologist's view of life's complexity based on how a species copes.



"... its place in the grand scheme of things."


related ideas: nest

                       genetic potential



I           Making a Living

II         Capacity of resources to sustain organisms

III        Reproductive strategies

IV        Conclusion



I           Introduction Defines earning one's keep

            A         complexity

                        1. hunting

                        2. breeding

                        3. seasons

                        4. competitive quest for food, fuel, fiber & forage

            B         niche is defined          

            C         contrast between niche (function) & habitat (place)

Complexity in Science



II         Limitations inherent in Carrying Capacity

            A         limits are defined

            B         carrying capacity is defined as a limitation on endless growth


Prairie The grassland prairie.


III        Competing reproductive strategies to assure survival

            A         natural selection argument

                        1. twin gambits

                                    a. small egg gambit - numerous young strategy; oysters or alligators

                                    b. large egg gambit - few young receive a greater investment of time, primates

                        2. numbers of eggs and necessity of an adequate & nutritious food supply

            B         economy of behavior––   –– that is to say any expenditure of energy is circumscribed

            C         optimization of time, expenditures and resources because the niche acts as a funnel or
                       container into which the creature's genetic variability allows it to adapt, if not full exploit.

  food web

VI        Conclusion


The planet is losing species as fast as humans are losing languages to describe these endangered creatures.




Niche is a means to understand the physical and chemical  constraints imposed on biological organisms by the environment's capacity to assimilate growing numbers on limited resources.

One basis for understanding ecosystem services.

The case of Pacific Salmon


His article is important because:

      1. Creates a structure to understand Wilson, Dillard,  Myers & Leopold.
      2. Introduces game theory in the form of strategies for reproduction.
      3. Is a prerequisite for understanding Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons."
      4. Calls our attention to constraints on reproduction, dispersal and survival.
      5. Paradox of competitive exclusion:
      6. "Every family tries to outbreed every other, though the total numbers remain the same."
      7. defines ecological integrity

Preserving biological diversity and wildlife in an age abrupt of climate change.

Complexity in biological functions that indicate ecosystem integrity.


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Ecology, of natural areas explained by Eugene Odum.

Evolution, explained by Ernst Mayr.

On the Origin of Species, notes on a primary document.

Diversity and E. O. Wilson.

Sandra Steingraber, Living Downstream

Lewis Thomas, symbiosis.


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gambit, usually an opening move involving some risk, with an unknowable outcome

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