Intro to Ecology Pt. 1: Nature’s Arms Race

Intro to Ecology Pt. 1: Nature’s Arms Race

When studying the life sciences, there are a lot of in-depth concepts to take in. Depending on the the type of science you are studying, biology vs. evolution, for example, you may even have to learn a handful of mathematical formulas to fully appreciate the material. Here, we are just having a light-hearted overview of the life sciences, so a light serving of sativa will do just fine.

In my experience, sativa helps me to not get lost in wordy texts (reading that is not broken up by graphics/tables or formulas) and keep my mind sharp and able to take in all relevant information. Grinding about 60mg (less than 1/4 of a 1g bud) of sativa and smoking just a small pinch of that for over a 3-5hr period is perfect for maintaining a healthy attention span for learning.

Black Flower Science Co. does not claim to be a medical professional and does not offer recommendations as a substitute for medical advice. All advice and recommendations are based on personal experience of the benefits of medical marijuana. If you are experiencing severe or declining mental health symptoms, please seek the advice of a medical professional.
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As a shared trait among animals, fear has shaped their evolution, behavior and even the landscape they thrive in.  In this introductory article we will explore fear from an ecology perspective, how fear shapes prey-predator behavior and their evolution, and the concept of landscape of fear.

Fearful prey or brave contestants?

Surviving in nature is not an easy task when, on top of finding a territory, competing for a mate, and feeding, animals have to be aware of their surroundings as well.

Evolution has favored traits that trigger a quick response to danger, like new-born hoofed animals that are ready to spring and run away at a moment’s notice, phenotypical modifications like camouflage, and complex social behaviors to scare off predators, such as mobbing.

Animals will do anything to make themselves as unappealing as they can to predators, and natural selection has ingenious ways to make even the hungriest predator gag in disgust or avoid a potential snack altogether. Poisonous frogs evade potential death with vibrant colors, and horned lizards will squirt blood from their eyes to distract their predators and give themselves time to escape.

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Harder, better, faster, stronger predators

Despite their best efforts, predators in nature have learned to outsmart their prey and evolved to become just as good. Throughout this arms race, animals are constantly upgrading their features. Cheetahs, for example, evolved to have high-functioning cardiac and respiratory capabilities, un-retractable claws, and a long tail for balance to reach speeds that no other extant feline is capable of, allowing them to catch some of the fastest land animals in existence.

Low visibility is a common tactic used among predators to stalk prey and jump over their unaware victims, and for this reason, camouflage has benefited them as much as their prey. Sound-proof camouflage is another clever way some predators have evolved to catch their hear-sensitive prey. Owls, for example, have adapted to a nocturnal activity pattern, and their feathers over thousands of years have evolved to be sound-proof and become so silent that they become invisible to their prey.

A landscape of fear

The countless number of ways animals have evolved to win this race also have consequences in the landscape. Ecologists have found that the presence of a predator modifies the behavior of prey, reducing the time they spend in certain areas.

Evidence of this became relevant to conservationists, especially after the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. Large ungulates that once grazed unconcerned in the valleys modified their behavior when wolves reappeared. Because open landscapes made them more vulnerable to predators, they started to spend less time in these areas. In consequence, this temporary relief from grazers, allowed species, like aspen trees, to recover and re-grow.

Over time, a denser vegetation added a complexity that brought back species more fit to this new landscape. This cascade of events originated just by the presence of a predator and the fear it caused on their prey is known as the landscape of fear and helps us understand how interactions on individual levels can affect the ecosystem as a whole.

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