What Is the Role of Competition Among Animals?

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Competition among animals plays a variety of roles in the ecosystem. Competition between animals of the same species may occur during mating seasons or over territory control; competition between different species may stem from limited resources in an area.

Intra-specific competition, or competition between two animals of the same species, is one of the most commonly researched types of competition, according to Nature.com. This type of competition usually occurs when two animals are vying for dominance or territory, especially when there are potential mates involved.

Inter-specific competitions occur between two species, usually over a limited resource. Most of these competitions are contests of fitness and strength and typically have a negative outcome for the weaker animal or species. For example, a stronger, more dominant animal may prevent a weaker animal from accessing a water source in a desert.

Within these two categories of competition, there are three sub-categories that describe whether the competition directly or indirectly affects another species. Interference competition directly results in a change in the resource-gathering behavior of one species, like a dominant animal physically preventing another from mating.

Exploitation and apparent competition is the indirect effect that animals have on one another as they use resources. For example, when one animal uses a resource, there is less of that resource available for others to consume.

According to Nature.com, there are a multitude of ways in which animals can compete during their life cycles; intra- and inter-species competition are just two of the most highly researched ways in which animals interact.