How do prey species know their predators?

Ecological niche

When studying the different types of ecosystems and its main characteristics refer to the term ecological niche. It is a concept used in the field of ecology to describe a particular strategy by which animals survive in an ecosystem.

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the ecological niche and what it means for the development of animals and plants.


What is an ecological niche?

Unless we are referring to the natural environment, there are numerous concepts with varying nuances that are difficult to distinguish for the population studying the environment. However, when it comes to explaining these concepts, she may know, but without that specific name. Usually the habitat is one species the area in which the physical, chemical and environmental properties are found where certain animal and plant species live. This habitat is the place where they can develop their life and carry out their physical processes.

When we speak of an ecological niche, we are not referring to the survival strategy of a particular species within one To feed the habitat, to compete with other species for food and territory, not to be attacked, to hide, to reproduce, etc. In other words, we can say that the ecological niche is a strategy used by living things to be able to survive in certain environmental conditions and in the presence of other living species.

Types of ecological niches

The vast majority of animals use the territory to develop certain habits that will help them thrive better. The ecological niche is the best strategy to be able to search for food and the necessary protection to be able to develop and multiply. Each species has its own ecological niche and there are different species. They are grouped into two main types of ecological niches:

  • Fundamental or potential: In this case, the ecological niche only takes into account the physical and ecological conditions under which it needs to divide the species. In other words, we are talking about the area where the types of living things live and the conditions under which they must adapt in order to survive. Environmental conditions such as temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, terrain geology, hiding places, presence of predators and prey, etc.
  • Cash or real: This type of ecological niche is the one that takes into account the conditions under which one species must live in the presence of others. Here all relationships between predator and prey are analyzed in detail.

Relationship between ecological niche and habitat

At the beginning of the article we described the definition of habitat as it has a great relationship with the ecological niche of a species. We know that habitat is the physical environment in which the ecological niches of the species that inhabit it are located. Therefore we can say that habitat and ecological niche are closely related to the ecosystem of a species.

We define a common biological ecosystem formed by a community of living organisms. Is The community of living organisms in relation to their physical environment is called a biocenosis. The entire relationship between living organisms and their physical environment is called a biotope. Different species with different ecological niches can coexist in each habitat. This is because the ecological niche is the role that the different individuals of a species play in any ecosystem.

To give examples, we can say the functions that some living things have in a natural ecosystem. For example, there are animals whose ecological niche is Pollination, others are scavengers, others decomposers, predators, prey, etc. Each species has its function within the ecosystem and together they reach a so-called ecological equilibrium. This ecological balance enables life to develop as we know it. It is also that which enables the existence of the trophic chain and the development of both animal and plant species.

Without these predatory species, the prey species could evolve in large numbers without restriction. In this way, predators control prey populations and, with it, the amount of plants that consume that prey. Hence the origin of the trophic chains. The plants are The first link in the food chain as they only need water and solar energy to thrive. Herbivores are the ones that feed on these plants and carnivores are those that feed on these herbivores. Without predatory carnivores, herbivores would kill all plants present and upset the balance of the food chain.

In this way, carnivore support only controls the herbivore populations, and these in turn are the ones who control the carnivore populations. However, in the same ecosystem, there may be species with very similar ecological niches. This creates a so-called interspecific competition.


We will give some examples of habitats and the ecological niche of some species.

  • The giraffe's habitats are grasslands, forests, and open plains. Its ecological niche is to feed on the leaves that are present in the treetops and coexist with other species. Giraffes only fight when food is scarce.
  • Kangaroos have their habitat in prairie and lowland areas. Its ecological niche is herbivorous and feeds on grasses and roots.
  • The green anaconda has its habitat in tropical forests and its ecological niche is an omnivorous predator. It can feed on other animals or plants. They usually stay on the ground in flooded areas and are therefore in direct competition with crocodiles and alligators. The competition is that they both have the same habitat and prey.
  • The earthworm has the looser soil with a clayey and sandy texture as a habitat. Its ecological niche is a decomposer and provides better quality to the land. Birds, mammals and reptiles serve as food and are therefore also part of the food chain.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the ecological niche.