In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Competition and Coexistence in Animal Communities

  • Introduction

Ecology Competition and Coexistence in Animal Communities
Priyanga Amarasekare
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0017


Competition is one of the most ubiquitous of species interactions. It occurs any time a resource that is essential to growth and reproduction (e.g., food, shelter, nesting sites) occurs in short supply. The acquisition of the resource by one individual simultaneously deprives others’ access to it, and this has a negative effect on the fitness of individuals and the per capita growth rates of populations. Competition is thus an interaction that has mutually negative effects on the participants. Coexistence results when populations of several species that utilize the same limiting resources manage to persist within the same locality. This article focuses on competitive coexistence in animal communities. Animals have two characteristics that determine the kinds of resources they can use and the mechanisms by which they can tolerate or avoid competition for these resources. First, animals are heterotrophs and have to ingest other organisms to obtain the energy required for growth and reproduction; competition thus involves biotic resources. Second, most animals are mobile and hence able to avoid or reduce competitive effects through dispersal.

Historical Overview

This section highlights the seminal work that laid the conceptual foundations and empirical investigations of competition and coexistence.

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