Thursday, September 6, 2007

Niche Construction

We've had a lot of questions and comments about niche construction so I thought some additional information might be worth while. The authors of the book that Terrell cites in his paper have a pretty nice website that I recommend checking out. Here's an excerpt that explains how they think of niche construction:

"Niche construction is the process whereby organisms, through their activities and choices, modify their own and each other's niches. By transforming natural selection pressures, niche construction generates feedback in evolution, on a scale hitherto underestimated, and in a manner that alters the evolutionary dynamic. Niche construction also plays a critical role in ecology, where it supports ecosystem engineering and part regulates the flow of energy and nutrients through ecosystems. We are developing a new approach to evolution - one that treats niche construction as a fundamental evolutionary process in its own right. We call it extended evolutionary theory. "

If you are interested in this topic I highly recommend spending some time on the website. Also note that they have posted a pdf of the first chapter of their book, which you can get by clicking here. Its really an interesting read. They make the point that we are missing a fundamental process of evolution if we don't specifically pay attention to how the feedbacks between organism and environment alter selective pressures. In short, they argue that niche selection changes the way we view the processes of evolution. It of course has rather large implications for humans as we are seemingly big-time niche constructors.


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