Habitat and ecological niches
The habitat of an organism is the place where it lives.
Example: cuckoo flax moss grows in a damp forest, and feather grass grows in the steppe.
The habitats of populations of different species in nature often coincide. They get along in a common area, as they occupy different ecological niches.
An ecological niche is a set of all living conditions necessary for the existence of a particular species, as well as the role of a species in a biological community. An ecological niche is an organism’s “profession”.
Example: different types of plants are able to grow in the same area due to the fact that they have different sizes. Their roots extract water and minerals from different soil levels, and the shoots are located so that they do not completely shade each other.
Herbivores can live together because they occupy different ecological niches. So, savannah hoofed animals eat grass in different ways: antelopes eat tall grasses, zebras gnaw only the upper parts of plants, and gazelles pinch low grasses with their tender lips.
At the same time, species that are systematically distant from each other, living even on different continents, can occupy similar ecological niches.
Example: kangaroo (Australia), zebra (Africa) and bison (America) are herbivores.
Two species cannot exist in the same area if they occupy the same ecological niche. After a while, one species displaces the other. This is how the law of competitive exclusion manifests itself.
Example: if populations of gray and black rats live on the same territory, then after a while gray rats drive out black ones.
Organisms of the same species at different ages can occupy different ecological niches.
Example: the caterpillar of the cabbage whitefish eats the leaves of cruciferous plants, while the adult butterfly feeds on the nectar of dandelion, chamomile, and other plants. Their ecological niches differ.
The same habitat contains many niches. Each species occupies its own niche. If any species disappears from the ecosystem, then its ecological niche will soon be occupied by another species with a similar role in the community.