Introduction

This article provides a scientific overview of the principles involved with mortality. Although one could simply say that mortality is a part of life and is pervasive (as the old saying by Benjamin Franklin goes, ''in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes''), it is important to recognize the importance of mortality as a driver in understanding evolution, trophic relationships, and the ecology of population dynamics. It is on this last point that we focus the majority of our attention. In the first section, we broadly discuss the ecological and evolutionary significance of mortality and how it influences animal life histories and behavior. In the second section, we discuss the difference between density-independent and density-dependent mortality, how the two can interact at large spatial scales, and how time lags in density dependence help create population cycles. In the last section, we discuss the principle of competing risks and how that has spurred different models to understand how hunting, in the presence of natural predation, influences populations.

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