Species interactions

Competition occurs when organisms require the same limited resources, such as food, living space, or mates; or when two groups of organisms try to occupy an ecological niche in the same location at the same time. Competition may either be interspecific (between different species) or intraspecific (within the same species). Hydroids, which have a stolonifer-ous growth pattern, demonstrate two different growth strategies. The first, a guerrilla strategy, is characterized by extensive hydrorhizal growth with little branching and sparsely spaced hydrocauli or polyps; this pattern is exhibited by L. flexuosa. Guerilla behavior is an opportunist-style strategy for reducing interspecific competition for space and the possibility of overgrowth by other organisms. The second strategy, phalanx; results in highly branched hydrorhizae with dense hydranths carried on large hydrocauli. The phalanx strategy is exemplified by Podocoryne carnea and Hydractinia echinata, which grow on the shells of hermit crabs. Intraspe-cific variation in the allocation of resources that lead to hy-drorhizal growth can be observed in the colonies of H. echinata. This species usually shows either little outward hy-drorhizal growth combined with a high rate of reproduction, or extensive hydrorhizal growth combined with a lower rate of reproduction and correspondingly greater competitive ability. Contact with another colony leads the hydrorhiza to produce an abnormally large number of stolons (shoots or runners) armed with nematocysts, which sting and kill the tissue of other hydroids. Guerrilla growth strategies have adaptive value in situations where there is relatively little space available, as on shells occupied by other hydroids, while the phalanx strategy is more advantageous for expanding the colony to shells that are inhabited by hydroids.

Competition for space is of prime importance in the coral reef ecosystem. Most of the aggressive species are small and have slow growth rates, while the less aggressive coral species have faster growth rates and are able to outpace their competitors through rapid growth. The ability to maintain either rapid growth or aggressively dominative practices, but never both, explains why no single species of coral is able to dominate a coral reef. One possible outcome of competition is the extinction of the less successful competitor.

A niche can be subdivided into two or more small niches with minimal overlap, allowing competing organisms to share a resource. Examples of resource partitioning may be found on coral reefs. Small ecological niches can be occupied by similar species if the anatomy, feeding behavior, and territory of each species are only slightly different from those of another. The hydrozoans Hydractinia (retained gonophores), Stylactis (medusoids), and Podocoryne (medusae) have similar morphologies but different reproductive strategies, which allows them to occupy similar niches on the shells of hermit crabs. The competitive ability of colonies may also depend on their size. Podocoryne carnea hydroids show a greater selective advantage in aggressiveness in relation to H. echinata in interspecific competition. In instances of intraspecific competition among different colonies of P. carnea, however, the colony most likely to lose out is the one with the slowest rate of growth.

Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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