August 3, 2005
Ecological Specialization of Mixotrophic Plankton in a Mixed Water Column
Ecological specialization is an important process underlying the self-organization of ecosystems. Insight into this process leads to a better understanding of the structure and functioning of the real and complex ecosystems surrounding us. In an article in the September issue of The American Naturalist, Tineke A. Troost and colleagues address these fundamental issues, while focusing on a simple but common aquatic system.
Their research integrates three separate threads of modern ecological theory: spatial dynamics, evolutionary branching, and mixotrophy and shows that the environmental heterogeneity caused by a light-intensity gradient can induce a population of generalists (mixotrophs) to split into trophic specialists (pure autotrophs and pure heterotrophs), though this is not possible in a homogeneous environment.
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