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      Individual diet specialization, niche width and population dynamics: implications for trophic polymorphisms : Density-dependent individual specialization

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      Journal of Animal Ecology

      Wiley-Blackwell

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          The ecology of individuals: incidence and implications of individual specialization.

          Most empirical and theoretical studies of resource use and population dynamics treat conspecific individuals as ecologically equivalent. This simplification is only justified if interindividual niche variation is rare, weak, or has a trivial effect on ecological processes. This article reviews the incidence, degree, causes, and implications of individual-level niche variation to challenge these simplifications. Evidence for individual specialization is available for 93 species distributed across a broad range of taxonomic groups. Although few studies have quantified the degree to which individuals are specialized relative to their population, between-individual variation can sometimes comprise the majority of the population's niche width. The degree of individual specialization varies widely among species and among populations, reflecting a diverse array of physiological, behavioral, and ecological mechanisms that can generate intrapopulation variation. Finally, individual specialization has potentially important ecological, evolutionary, and conservation implications. Theory suggests that niche variation facilitates frequency-dependent interactions that can profoundly affect the population's stability, the amount of intraspecific competition, fitness-function shapes, and the population's capacity to diversify and speciate rapidly. Our collection of case studies suggests that individual specialization is a widespread but underappreciated phenomenon that poses many important but unanswered questions.
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            Resource polymorphisms in vertebrates.

            Discrete resource polymorphisms occur in various vertebrate species and probably occur more frequently than is generally appreciated. They are manifested in a number of ways, including morphological, behavioral and life history characters. Research on a number of unrelated taxa suggests that resource polymorphisms may be underestimated as a diversifying force and potentially play important roles in population divergence and initial steps in speciation. In an ecological context, they are important in resource partitioning and reducing intraspecific competition. Recent research suggests that the mechanisms maintaining these polymorphisms may be similar in diverse taxa, that phenotypic plasticity is important, and that some are under simple genetic control.
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              EVOLUTIONARY SIGNIFICANCE OF RESOURCE POLYMORPHISMS IN FISHES, AMPHIBIANS, AND BIRDS

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Journal of Animal Ecology
                Wiley-Blackwell
                00218790
                September 2004
                September 2004
                : 73
                : 5
                : 973-982
                Article
                10.1111/j.0021-8790.2004.00868.x
                © 2004

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