Typically, changes are merely minor deviations from the expected, inciting little reaction or recognition. Over time, a pattern can be detected, but few look back and consider if perhaps change is moving in a threatening direction or at a hazardous pace. Rarely, an unprecedented leap occurs like a fracture in time, disrupting the status quo like the atomic detonation in Hiroshima in 1945.
In an ecosystem, species interact among each other in a balanced equilibrium – drought will reduce plant growth and water – leading to fewer, lighter weight and less fertile herbivores; carnivores will fight amongst themselves for the dwindling supply of prey (food). During times of plenty, the opposite occurs with all populations growing and thriving. Adverse conditions are necessary to promote health in species, as the weaker will not thrive and their genetic traits will not be passed on.
Presiding thought was that species adapt gradually over time, varying little from generation to generation (genetic drift). Noticeable change required the passing of centuries or millennia. Archeological evidence suggests rapid changes (e.g., climate change, geographic divide, etc.) induced immediate and drastic changes in the ecosystem. When members of a species suddenly (i.e., within a generation or three) demonstrate unprecedented traits that confer an advantage in an environment, that is called a genetic shift. Biologically enhanced “shifters” often dominate an environment. In animals, it may be the ability to breed younger, a larger jawbone, or greater lung capacity.
Another fascinating event to watch (if you are a biology nerd), but horrific at the same time, is the introduction of an invasive species. Kudzu vine, coqui frogs and Asian carp may not sound threatening; to populations fighting the loss of indigenous species to such invaders, it is deadly serious. 1 An invasive species entering an ecosystem may immediately disrupt the ecosystem by overwhelming the food supply, or driving “native” species from their habitat. The worst offender is not the Burmese python or wild boar, it is man.
Finally, mathematics has a branch called “game theory” that deals with interactions between parties competing for the same reward/resource. A central concept is the “Nash equilibrium” named after Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash Jr. – portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film “A Beautiful Mind.” 2 The Nash equilibrium states that “players” in competition will make their decisions based upon the decisions of others. 2 If one player makes a decision that gains him an advantage, the others have to make similar decisions to stay competitive.
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