Humans and niches

Wed, 2 Feb 1994 18:50:20 CST

J. Wilson asks

"Is Homo sapiens the only species to change niches? What of primates who
get in trees and change position..."

It's a good question, but niche isn't the same thing as specific behavior.
A species' niche is defined by how it exists (in general terms) in the
environment, i.e., how it fits in with resources and predators. You can
think of it as the functional position of a species. For example, the
niche of white-tailed deer is that of a forest and forest-edge browsing

Defining niche for humans is difficult because different societies
use resources and modify (or screw-up) their envionments in diverse
ways. You can make the argument that non-human populations can
exploit new niches through natural selection and adaptative dispersal
(think of Darwin's finches), but humans are the only ones to do so
in non-genetic terms.