Spatial Dynamics and Coexistence of the Serengeti Grazer Community

John M. Fryxell, Peter A. Abrams, Robert D. Holt, John F. Wilmshurst, A. R. E. Sinclair and Ray Hilborn

in Serengeti III

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780226760339
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226760353 | DOI:
Spatial Dynamics and Coexistence of the Serengeti Grazer Community

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Two characteristics define the Serengeti grazer community in the minds of many observers: exceptional species diversity and exceptional mobility. Twenty-eight species of large ungulates are found in the greater Serengeti ecosystem. Many of these species have similar resource needs and occupy similar habitats. Under these circumstances, one would normally expect to witness competitive exclusion by the dominant competitor and hence reduced diversity; yet there is unparalleled diversity in the Serengeti. This chapter uses simulation models to explore three possible explanations for this seeming paradox, all of which point to size variation among herbivores, spatial variation in resources, and behavioral responses to this variation. The first hypothesis is that no grazer is consistently at a competitive advantage. A second plausible hypothesis is that Serengeti grazers facilitate each other, rather than compete for food resources. A third hypothesis is that seasonal migration by the predominant species—the wildebeest—prevents competitive exclusion of other grazers.

Keywords: species diversity; large ungulates; Serengeti ecosystem; competitive exclusion

Chapter.  7265 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

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