Niche as Ecological Function of the Species

In this concept of niche, each species has a particular role in an ecosystem and its dynamics, and one such role can be fulfilled by different species in different places. The observation of distant species adapted to equivalent ecological roles (the resemblance between jerboa and kangaroo rat, between many eutherian and marsupial species, or the Galapagos finches diversifying to highly specialized roles including those normally taken by woodpeckers) was clearly influential to Charles Elton, who emphasized the functional roles of species. According to Elton, there is the niche of burrowing detritivores, the niche of animals specializing in cleaning ticks or other parasites, or the pollination niche. Elton's niche can apply to several species, for example, ''the niche filled by birds of prey which eat small mammals.'' This 'functional niche' therefore refers to a species position in food webs and trophic chains, and the concept is thus especially relevant for ecosystem ecology.

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