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The law of the weakest
Date:2/13/2009

The extinction of species is a consequence of their inability to adapt to new environmental conditions, and also of their competition with other species. Besides selection and the appearance of new species, the possibility of adaptation is also one of the driving forces behind evolution. According to the interpretation that has been familiar since Darwin, these processes increase the "fitness" of the species overall, since, of two competing species, only the fittest would survive. LMU researchers have now simulated the progression of a cyclic competition of three species. It means that each participant is superior to one other species, but will be beaten by a third interaction partner. "In this kind of cyclical concurrence, the weakest species proves the winner almost without exception," reports Professor Erwin Frey, who headed the study. "The two stronger species, on the other hand, die out, as experiments with bacteria have already shown. Our results are not only a big surprise, they are important to our understanding of evolution of ecosystems and the development of new strategies for the protection of species."

Ecosystems are composed of a large number of different species, which interact and compete with one another for scarce resources. This competition between species in turn affects the probability with which the individual can reproduce and survive a matter of life and death, as it were. All of these processes are also largely probabilistic and lead to fluctuations that ultimately lead to the extinction of species. We know that up to 50 species become extinct every day on Earth, which at this high rate can be attributed to the influence of man.

Yet, the phenomenon of extinction of species itself cannot be avoided altogether and is still only barely understood. Theoretical ecologists and biophysicists are therefore intensively researching conditions and mechanisms that affect the biodiversity of Earth. Cyclic dominance is a particu
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Contact: Luise Dirscherl
dirscherl@lmu.de
49-892-180-2706
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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