What is a niche, and how does it relate to evolution?

1 Answer



The evolution of species’ niches is a process that is fundamental to investigations in numerous fields of biology, including speciation, community assembly, and long-term regional and global diversification processes. It forms the nexus between ecological and evolutionary questions. Topics as diverse as ecological speciation, niche conservatism, species coexistence, and historical biogeography all rely on interpreting patterns and drivers of species’ niches through time and across landscapes. Despite this importance, a distinct research agenda concerning niche evolution as a discrete topic of inquiry has yet to emerge. Niche evolution is often considered as a sidebar or of secondary importance when addressing questions such as “how did two species diverge?” Basic questions such as “what is a niche,” “what is the biological basis of niche evolution,” “at what scale should we evaluate niche evolution,” and “how can we observe niche evolution at different timescales” have rarely been addressed directly, or not at all in some systems. However, various intellectual threads connecting these ideas are evident in a number of recent and historical publications, giving some semblance of form to a framework for interpreting and evaluating niche evolution, and outlining major areas for future research from an evolutionary perspective. There is a reverse perspective from the macroecological scale as well, with questions involving coexistence, distributions and ranges, food webs, and other organismal attributes



Matilda Beer
15.5k 3 10 26
answered 1 year ago