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McGarr178

Effect of intelligent creatures on ecosystems

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Has there ever been any studies on the effect of intelligent animals on ecosystems? (excluding modern humans) 

My hunch is that they would have a stabilising effect because they could shift strategies to fill in niches as they arose and fell quicker than other creatures could normally evolve into them. So the ecosystem could restabilise quicker in response to changes in the environment. 

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That would depend a lot on what you would consider to be intelligent. However, adapting to a changing ecosystem does not inherently stabilize it. Alternative resource use could very well accelerate destabilizing, for example. Also it is not necessary intelligence that allows a species to adapt, it depends on a lot of factors including how specialized they are in resource use.

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37 minutes ago, CharonY said:

That would depend a lot on what you would consider to be intelligent. However, adapting to a changing ecosystem does not inherently stabilize it. Alternative resource use could very well accelerate destabilizing, for example. Also it is not necessary intelligence that allows a species to adapt, it depends on a lot of factors including how specialized they are in resource use.

Equilibrium would depend on having all the necessary actors to fill the necessary niches, rather than just one, I would have thought; symbiosis

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Equilibrium is also highly dependent on resource flow. The question really is how the situation looks like in a changing ecosystem as well as the size of it, for example. Filling niches does not necessary balance the resource allocation. It can also lead to accelerated loss instead. While that is not my field, I would imagine that to be the more common effect as most systems are not in perfect equilibrium to begin with.

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16 minutes ago, CharonY said:

Equilibrium is also highly dependent on resource flow. The question really is how the situation looks like in a changing ecosystem as well as the size of it, for example. Filling niches does not necessary balance the resource allocation. It can also lead to accelerated loss instead. While that is not my field, I would imagine that to be the more common effect as most systems are not in perfect equilibrium to begin with.

That's true, I suppose, the 'ideal' path would be for an organism, or a group of symbionts, to maximise their stay long enough to mutate into enough variations to cope with any potential adverse environments in the future.

Edited by StringJunky

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Surely having the intelligence to change your behaviour is quicker than waiting for mutations to achieve the same? 

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(Mostly) regardless of intelligence, behavioral changes can predate genetic ones. Of course, some may be overspecialized, and fail to adapt, but other would switch to other available resources.

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28 minutes ago, McGarr178 said:

Surely having the intelligence to change your behaviour is quicker than waiting for mutations to achieve the same? 

I think the real key to successful adaptability is variation in traits because threats can be random and of such nature that intelligence is powerless.

Edited by StringJunky

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9 minutes ago, McGarr178 said:

Intelligence allows an animal to varie its traits surely 

That governs the behavioural trait  but 'traits' in general can be things we have no control over, like physiological ones, immunity to a new lethal pathogen etc.

Edited by StringJunky

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Plenty of room for being intelligent enough to make things better in the short term and not intelligent enough to realise they are making things worse in the long term. Like a herbivore being intelligent enough to realise they can eat the bark of shrubs and trees when all their preferred grass and herbage has been eaten but not intelligent enough to realise that killing the shrubs and trees means different kinds of vegetation will come to dominate, that may not favour or include their most important food sources... 

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On ‎1‎/‎27‎/‎2019 at 9:41 AM, McGarr178 said:

Has there ever been any studies on the effect of intelligent animals on ecosystems? (excluding modern humans) 

My hunch is that they would have a stabilising effect because they could shift strategies to fill in niches as they arose and fell quicker than other creatures could normally evolve into them. So the ecosystem could restabilise quicker in response to changes in the environment. 

I think you better say 'creative' animals.

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