We always imagine two lions fighting to stay in a herd or a hyena and a vulture fighting for a piece of meat, but what about the competitiveness between non-carnivorous species?
Competitiveness among non-carnivorous species
The concept ‘competitiveness’ is widely used by biologists to refer to the fact that there is a competing spirit in nature. It exists between species and exists between individuals of the same species.
For example, three different species of geomids converge in Colorado –Geomys, Cratogeomys Y Thomomys spp.– competing for the use of space.
A good indicator of competition between two species is the ability of one to occupy the geographical space of the other when it is absent. This happens with tamias: Eutamias dorsalis Y Eutamias umbrinus. Although the former is considered dominant, the latter may compete if the trees in the area are close enough.
In Kenya, two hares –Lepus capensis Y Lepus crawshayi– They live side by side near the Great Rift Valley. In this area there are regular fires that alter the habitat of both species. This favors the dominance of L. capensis, which moves better in cleared spaces. But when the thicket grows again, the favored species is L. crawshayi.
An example of competitiveness among non-carnivorous species: rabbits vs. hares
Prior to human intervention, the European hare (Lepus europaeus) did not cross the Pyrenees. And the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) coexisted in the Iberian Peninsula only with the Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis). But over the years there has been the overlap of the European hare and the rabbit, which have spread throughout most of Europe, South America and Oceania. And on all continents hares occupy much more territory than rabbits, except in Australia.
Somehow, there is an allopatric speciation between these two species; each one prefers a habitat type. On the one hand, the rabbit prefers sandy and clayey soils, coniferous forests and grasslands. On the other, the hare prefers cultivated land, cereal fields, dunes and forest clearings.
Among the locals in rural areas it has always been believed that hares and rabbits are avoided. This may be because rabbits, when they outnumber the hares, chase and harass them until they faint. This is one of the reasons why it is believed that, in Australia, the rabbit outperforms the hare. But despite the rumors, in the rest of the continents you can see, perfectly, both species grazing on the same grounds.
Why, then, that the more rabbits there are, the less hares, and vice versa?
The death of numerous rabbits due to this disease in the Europe of the 50s acted as an authentic experiment. So much so that he showed that, as the number of rabbits decreased, the number of hares increased in several countries. And that can only happen if both species, naturally, are competition.
The antagonism between hares and rabbits has always been very commented, both in captivity and in nature. Numerous cases of rabbits attacks on hares have been reported over the centuries. However, they have also been seen sharing land and eating without disturbing each other.
Studies show that normally there is no aggressive behavior between them. Hares do not usually escape the attack of rabbits. Nor do they avoid the territories occupied by them, or rabbits in general. That is, there is no need for direct competition. Simply, some feed in a part of the territory and others in the opposite.
There have been reports of diseases that, while exclusive to the rabbit, are fatal in the hares. And vice versa. For example, the parasite Graphidium strigosum originally made the rabbits sick. But it was discovered that when a hare entered a territory occupied by infected rabbits, it was also affected.
Competitiveness among non-carnivorous species: conclusion
The European hare and rabbit became sympatric relatively recently. And one of the explanations given to its original competitive behavior is that They were immersed in a process of adaptation to coexistence.
Since their diets are similar, experience tells us that they can live together perfectly, as long as they feed in different areas. But in the absence of one, the other will effectively take its place.
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