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Universal ecology: Laws of physics and mathematics apply across the universe. Are there biological laws?

On Earth, bacteria grow exponentially, lynx eat hares, and red panda populations decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation. How much of this ecology could we expect to find on other planets? Of course, we wouldn’t find lynx, hares, red pandas, or Earth bacteria on a planet located outside our solar system. But might organisms there grow exponentially and respond to predators, prey, and habitat loss in the same ways as their Earthly counterparts?

Take the core ecological principle that, when resources are unlimited, populations grow exponentially. This principle, posited by Thomas Malthus in 1798, could be regarded as the cornerstone of population ecology.

[However,] competition for resources among members of the population means that the density of the population becomes important, and the resulting reduction in individual resources causes a slowing of the population growth.

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The fact that no Earth-bound population grows exponentially forever testifies to the ubiquity of density-dependent limiting factors. So this principle, too, may fit the bill for universality.

We have every reason to expect that the laws of physics and mathematics hold in far-flung corners of the universe. Recent work on ecological allometries suggests that researchers may be uncovering fundamental laws of biological interaction—universal ecology, if you like.

Read full, original post: The Dawn of Universal Ecology

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