Hi. It’s Mr. Andersen and in this podcast
I’m going to talk about this word right here. Ecological, well it depends on where you live.
Some people call it a niche. Some people call it a niche. And some people even call it a
niche. And so I tend to call it a niche. But I think that’s kind of an American things.
And so whatever we call it, it’s derived from a French word which simply means nest. And
so a good way to think about a niche is basically your role in an environment. And if we look
right here we see a couple of niches being exploited. And so we’ve got a rock here. And
then we’ve got lichen that’s growing on the rock. And so I can actually see four species
here. Because lichen is not one species. It’s actually a symbiotic relationship between
an algae and a fungus. And they can’t live themselves. But I can see this green lichen.
And then I also see this orange lichen growing right here. And they’re both exploiting a
different niche or a different job. And so one of the first scientists to come up with
a good definition for a niche is this guy, George Hutchinson. I love his hair. And I’ve
never been able to figure out what kind of an animal he’s holding. It looks maybe like
a cat or a monkey. But he defined it as an n-dimensional hypervolume. And so that seems
like a crazy term. So what’s he really talking about? Well he’s saying let’s put on one side
some biotic factor or abiotic factor. Let’s say on this side we put sunlight. And on this
side we put moisture. Well this is just a two dimensional volume. And so basically,
or area we would call that. And so let’s say that you’re an organism that likes a lot of
light. So you could survive there. But you don’t do well with moisture. Well then this
would be your niche right here. And so it would be this area. But he says there are
so many different characteristics, both biotic and abiotic, so we could add temperature,
food, predators. All those things. So if you think of each of those being a different dimension
then you would have this complex and dimensional hypervolume and it would be this shape that
only a species can fill. And none of those species can overlap. So we’re getting a little
deep. Let me tell you what I’m talking about. So let’s say we’ve got the orange lichen.
And the orange lichen likes a lot of sunlight. It doesn’t do well without sunlight. But can’t
stand a huge amount of moisture. And now if we look at the green lichen, well the green
lichen likes more moisture but doesn’t do well if we have a whole bunch of sunlight.
And so basically if we put those in the same area at the same time, we’re going to see
two niches. The first one is your fundamental niche. And so your fundamental niche is where
you could live. And so in other words, for the orange one the fundamental niche is going
to be this whole area. It could live here. But when you have the green lichen show up,
it can’t. It’s being out-competed by that green. And so now we would have to give up
this section. This actually belongs to the green. And so now the realized niche of that
orange lichen is just going to be this shape right here. And so that’s one way to think
about a niche. Another way to think about it is simply its job. And so let’s say you
work in a factory. This is in an early Ford assembly line. Basically each of the workers
in here have a specific job or a role within this factory. Likewise in a coral reef, each
of these corals is going to have a role that they play within that ecosystem. And so they’re
constantly in competition with each other. And in fact we have what’s called they competitive
exclusion principle. And that essentially means that you can never have two different
species filling the same niche at the same time. A better way to say that is that complete
competitors, in other words two species that are in complete competition, doesn’t even
exist. It’s like a fairly tale. And so let me tell you a real story of how this actually
plays out. And so this is a coyote. This is a fox. And this is a grey wolf. And so we
didn’t have the grey wolf in Yellowstone Park for a long time. And so basically when the
grey wolf was gone the coyotes started to fill that role. And they started to have weird
pack like behavior. And they started to do really well. Fill niches that were one time
filled by the grey wolf. As they did that the red fox population actually went down.
They took a hit. And the reason why is that the coyotes were exploiting that niche. Well
now we reintroduce the grey wolf into Yellowstone Park. The grey wolf actually is killing coyotes.
Killing coyotes by the thousands. And so when we introduced the wolf into Yellowstone Park,
almost immediately 50% of the coyotes were gone. And that’s because they were in competition
for the same food source, the wolf and the coyote. And so the wolves would target them
and kill them. And a pack of wolves against a coyote is no competition. Because coyotes
kind of live this solitary life. They simply kill them. And so basically what’s happened
is the wolves have now taken over that niche that was being filled by the coyote. As a
result now there’s less coyotes and so you could imagine that the red fox population
is starting to take off. And so that’s pretty cool. Right now if you go to Yellowstone Park
we’ve seen selection. And so now we’re seeing coyotes that are much larger than they used
to be. And they tend to spend most of their time around the roads so they get protection
from humans. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got on the niche. And I hope that’s helpful.