Plants and animals living together in communities dont rub shoulders too closely because evolution has caused them to compromise on key life measures, say ecologists at Imperial College London and Royal Holloway, University of London, writing in the journal Science today (1 October).
The researchers suggest a new basis for explaining how communities of species assemble: they have to give up being good at everything and trade off their life histories. Life histories is ecological jargon for the important measures, shaped by evolution, such as how often you can reproduce; how many children you will have; how long you can live for; and crucially, how good you are at getting food on which to survive. "You cant be good at doing everything," says Dr Mike Bonsall, a Royal Society University Research Fellow working at Imperial College London, and first author of the paper. "Most people do one thing really well, another thing fairly well and then arent very good at anything else. So it is with any other species. Now we know that they coexist precisely because they each have different life histories."
The London researchers assembled a simple artificial community of parasitoid wasps within a computer model, and then watched what happened over very long periods of time - up to 100,000 generations. Parasitoid wasps, insects that kill other insects by laying eggs in them, account for a fifth of all known multi-celled species. Their 200,000 species places them approximately next to land plants in terms of diversity.
Tom Miller | alfa
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