Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ecologists make first image of food niche

Date:
July 11, 2014
Source:
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Summary:
The ecological niche concept is very important in ecology. But what a niche looks like is fairly abstract. Now, for the first time, researchers have concretely visualized the ecological niche. The biologists have been able to determine the position of fourteen fish species in relationship to their food in a four-dimensional food diagram.

For the first time, Wageningen and British researchers have concretely visualised the ecological niche. The biologists have been able to determine the position of fourteen fish species in relationship to their food in a four-dimensional food diagram.
Credit: Image courtesy of Wageningen University and Research Centre

The ecological niche concept is very important in ecology. But what a niche looks like is fairly abstract. Now, for the first time, Wageningen and British researchers have concretely visualized the ecological niche. The biologists have been able to determine the position of fourteen fish species in relationship to their food in a four-dimensional food diagram. Their pioneering work was published in this month's issue of the scientific journal Theoretical Ecology.

Related Articles


The ecological 'niche' concept was first used in 1927 by the well-known animal ecologist Joseph Grinnell. He defined the niche of an animal as its place in the biological environment and its interactions with food and enemies. The idea that the ecological role of animals is determined by their position in an abstract 'niche space' has since inspired many ecologists.

More than eighty years after Grinnell's formulation, Leo Nagelkerke of Wageningen University and Axel Rossberg of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) in Lowestoft (UK) have made it possible to measure this niche space in concrete terms for a select group of fish species: the barbs in Lake Tana in Northern Ethiopia (see diagram).

The researchers determine the position in the diagram from the characteristics of both the fish and their food. The diagram shows that the fish species 'Cr' (Labeobarbus crassibarbis) is close to the food type 'benthic invertebrates (small bottom-dwelling animals) and algae'. The characteristic 'Barbel' (the length of the whiskers near the mouth) is highly developed in this fish species and previous research has, in fact, shown that barbels are important to eat this type of food. The food itself has a very low score on the characteristic 'Pelagic' (swimming in the water column), which is correct for bottom-dwellers.

Ecological niche

Visualizing an ecological niche is an important step in bringing together theoretical and abstract ecology and observations from the field. Leo Nagelkerke from Wageningen University says that this method can help to identify and protect species that have a unique food niche. According to Axel Rossberg of Cefas a lot of ecologists have been working on the structure of the food niche and the position of species within it for a long time. "Using this new imaging technique we can answer questions of this kind via direct observations."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wageningen University and Research Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Leopold A. J. Nagelkerke, Axel G. Rossberg. Trophic niche-space imaging, using resource and consumer traits. Theoretical Ecology, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s12080-014-0229-5

Cite This Page:

Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Ecologists make first image of food niche." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140711101302.htm>.
Wageningen University and Research Centre. (2014, July 11). Ecologists make first image of food niche. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140711101302.htm
Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Ecologists make first image of food niche." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140711101302.htm (accessed April 24, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 24, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dispute Flares Over Controversial Thai Temple Tigers

Dispute Flares Over Controversial Thai Temple Tigers

AFP (Apr. 24, 2015) Thai wildlife officials begin a headcount of nearly 150 tigers kept by monks at a temple which has become the centre of a dispute over the welfare of the animals. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
College Kegger: University Gets in on Craft Brew

College Kegger: University Gets in on Craft Brew

AP (Apr. 24, 2015) Theres never been a shortage of beer on college campuses. But students at Cal Poly-Pomona are learning how to brew, serving their product to classmates, and hoping to land jobs in craft breweries when they graduate. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cambodian Butterflies Help Villagers Make a Living

Cambodian Butterflies Help Villagers Make a Living

AFP (Apr. 24, 2015) Cambodia&apos;s Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre is the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia. As well as educating tourists about the creatures, it also offers a source of income to nearby villagers, who are paid to breed local species. Duration: 02:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Food Printing: The Meal of the Future?

3D Food Printing: The Meal of the Future?

AP (Apr. 23, 2015) Developers of 3D food printing hope the culinary technology will revolutionize the way we cook and eat. (April 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins