Research NewsEcology

New Model Charts Swings in Crab Populations

Science  30 May 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5317, pp. 1335
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5317.1335

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Via your Institution

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


Summary

Crab populations are notoriously erratic, skyrocketing one year and tumbling the next. For decades, ecologists have wondered what forces drive these swings: Is it biology--behaviors such as competition--which depends on the density of crabs in a given locale? Or is it environment--random changes in various aspects of the crabs' habitat? A new computer model, described on page 1431, suggests that the answer may well be both: Biological feedbacks can amplify even small changes in the crabs' physical environment, resulting in huge population swings. The work could help scientists better understand the population dynamics of a host of species, from pest insects such as gypsy moths to endangered butterflies.

Related Content