The Niche

Species do not use or occupy all parts of their habitat at once. The specific role, or way of life, of a species within its environment is its niche (NICH). The niche includes the range of conditions that the species can tolerate, the resources it uses, the methods by which it obtains resources, the number of offspring it has, its time of reproduction, and all other interactions with its environment. Parts of a lion's niche are shown in Figure 18-6.

Generalists are species with broad niches; they can tolerate a range of conditions and use a variety of resources. An example of a generalist is the Virginia opossum, found across much of the United States. The opossum feeds on almost anything, from eggs and dead animals to fruits and plants. In contrast, species that have narrow niches are called specialists. An example is the koala of Australia, which feeds only on the leaves of a few species of eucalyptus trees.

Some species have more than one niche within a lifetime. For example, caterpillars eat the leaves of plants, but as adult butterflies, they feed on nectar.

www.scilinks.org Topic: Niche/Habitats Keyword: HM61029

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