Just like humans, other mammals too keep a distance from close relatives

May 28th, 2008 - 1:11 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 28 (ANI): With egos clashing every now and then, family feuds are not so uncommon in households. But if you think humans are the only one caught in the labyrinth of the in-house fights, youre certainly mistaken for according to a new research, other four-legged mammals also engage in it, that too quite often.

According to the study, mammals cannot share their habitat with closely related species because the need for the same kind of food and shelter would lead them to compete to the death.

As for the reason behind such a behaviour, the research team says, the retreat of natural habitats like rainforests caused by habitat destruction and climate change could inadvertently force closely-related species to live closer together than before.

Mammal species that share a recent common ancestor have similar needs in terms of food and other resources. Our study shows that this has naturally resulted in closely related species keeping their distance from each other in the wild. Without this separation, one species out competes the other, said lead author of the study Natalie Cooper, a postgraduate student in Imperial College Londons Department of Life Sciences.

The danger is that if mankinds reduction of natural habitats throws these close relatives together in small geographical areas they could struggle to survive, she added.

In the research, the scientists focused on communities of three different types of mammals: new world monkeys (including marmosets, tamarins and spider monkeys), possums, and ground squirrels (including marmots, prairie dogs and chipmunks).

The team compared data from a family tree showing the evolution of all mammal species on the planet, with checklists of which mammal species are found where. They discovered that in the case of these monkeys, squirrels and possums, close evolutionary relatives do not tend to live in communities with one another.

This idea that closely related species would be unlikely to be found together because they compete ferociously was first put forward by Charles Darwin in 1859. This study provides the most evidence so far for Darwins prediction, thanks to the new complete family tree for mammals, developed by Imperial biologists last year, and new comprehensive data on the location and make-up of different mammal communities worldwide.

The study is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. (ANI)

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