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Organism and EnvironmentEcological Development, Niche Construction, and Adaptation$
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Sonia E. Sultan

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587070

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587070.001.0001

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The organism–environment relationship

The organism–environment relationship

Ecological niches, adaptation, eco-devo, and niche construction

Chapter:
(p.31) Chapter 2 The organism–environment relationship
Source:
Organism and Environment
Author(s):

Sonia E. Sultan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587070.003.0002

As G. G. Simpson wrote, organisms and their environments are “not really separable.” This chapter examines the biologically intimate organism–environment relationship. It begins by critiquing the concepts of ecological niche and adaptation. The chapter then lays out the book’s conceptual framework, drawing on recent examples from the animal, plant, and microbial literature to make the following points. Environments shape the phenotypes of individuals (whether positively or negatively) through ecological development. In turn, the presence and activities of individuals affect their environments (again, these impacts can be positive or negative) through two modes of niche construction. First, the organism’s presence and activities can alter its external biotic or abiotic conditions (habitat construction). Second, the individual’s phenotype mediates how the organism experiences those conditions (experiential niche construction). Adaptation emerges from these reciprocal organism–environment effects. To close the chapter, the porous boundary between organism and environment is discussed in light of internalized elements such as microbial symbionts.

Keywords:   ecological niche, empty niches, adaptation, niche construction, eco-evolutionary feedbacks, eco-evo dynamics, ecosystem engineering, plasticity, ecological development, symbiosis

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