What is an ecological niche and examples

Surely you have heard or read about “ecological niche” somewhere, and you have been wondering what is an ecological niche ? Throughout this Green Ecology article we will explain the concept and provide examples of an ecological niche that will disperse any doubts on this topic.

As you can see, in the natural world there are millions of concepts that many times we do not relate to what we know, but in reality we do know. For this reason, we are going to clear up the unknowns of everything that is possible, starting with this term of ecology.

What is an ecological niche – meaning

As I mentioned before, in the natural world and in ecology, there are numerous concepts and, often, we will confuse each other because of their similar meaning or because we do not know the nuances that differentiate them. This is perhaps what happens with the meaning of habitat and ecological niche . Both can be confused if we are not clear about the concept of each of them. We take advantage of the fact that we want to clarify what an ecological niche is to also explain what habitat is and the differences between them:

  • Habitat is the area or physical place with all its physical-environmental characteristics where the species that inhabit it are found.
  • Ecological niche is the survival strategy used by a species to feed itself, compete with other species, avoid being attacked … That is, the ecological niche is the functional role or function of an organism within the habitat. How it works under certain environmental conditions and in the presence of other species.

Main types of ecological niche

Within the ecological niche there are two well-known types , such as:

  • Fundamental or potential: this type of ecological niche only takes into account the physical-environmental conditions under which the species have to live.
  • Effective or real: this other form of niche in ecology contemplates the conditions under which one species has to subsist in the presence of others.

Relationship between habitat and ecological niche

We already know the meaning and difference of each of them. The relationship that unites them is simple, the habitat is the physical environment that houses the ecological niches of the species that inhabit it. The habitat and ecological niche are closely related to the ecosystem.

We define the ecosystem as the biological system formed by a community of living organisms, which is known as biocenosis, and also by the physical environment where these living beings are related, known as biotope . In this other post of Green Ecology we explain the Definition of ecosystem in a simple way .

Within the habitat, species with different ecological niches can coexist. The function or niche performed by the individuals of a species is unique in an ecosystem, some functions or species niches are that of pollinators , scavengers , decomposers … So far so good, the conflict arises when the niche is similar, it is that is, the functions of two species are very similar, this would trigger competition between both.

Examples of ecological niches

Some examples of habitat and ecological niche of some species are explained below, hoping to finally clarify what we mean when we talk about habitat and ecological niche.

Jirafa

  • Location: Africa
  • Habitat: areas of pastures, forests and open plains.
  • Ecological niche: herbivore, it feeds on the leaves of the treetops. It lives with more species, against which it will only fight if food is scarce.

Kangaroo ( Macropus )

  • Location: Australia
  • Habitat: areas of prairies and plains.
  • Ecological niche: herbivore, feeds on grass and roots.

Anaconda verde (Eunectes marinus)

  • Location: South America, especially in the Amazon.
  • Habitat: tropical jungles.
  • Ecological niche: omnivorous predator, usually housed in the ground or flooded land. Compete with crocodiles and alligators.

Earthworm ( Lumbricus terrestris )

  • Location: all continents.
  • Habitat: earth soils.
  • Ecological niche: large decomposers, improve the quality of the soil thanks to the activity they carry out. They serve as food for birds, mammals and reptiles.

Andean condor ( Vultur gryphus )

  • Location: South America.
  • Habitat: Cordillera de los Andes.
  • Ecological niche: scavenger bird, helps decompose the meat of dead animals. With their strong beak and claws, they open the skin of animals, facilitating the activity of other animals and organisms, contributing to their total decomposition.

Blue whale ( Baleonoptera musculus )

  • Location: Arctic, Indian and Pacific.
  • Habitat: cold water oceans.
  • Ecological niche: their food is krill (tiny crustaceans) that are filtered along with the water. It has no known predators except man, who has led it to near extinction.

Having shown some examples, we hope that you have been able to understand what an ecological niche is. We do not close this article without remembering the very important functions of each of the organisms that inhabit the planet, we must fight for their conservation if we do not want to end up in the same place that they are ending up, because of the human being and their actions with impact negative.

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