SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: Competition, predation, and mutualism are the three main types of biotic interactions between individuals of different species. All three exert powerful selection pressures that shape communities. However, the true importance of interspecific competition in nature remains a controversial and unresolved question.
During a Chats in the Stacks Book Talk at Mann Library, Dr. Andre Dhondt discussed his new book, Interspecific Competition in Birds, which highlights the impact of both past and ongoing interspecific competition on the coexistence of species. The lessons learned are timely. As ecologists work to understand the many factors that influence global biodiversity and to model the effects of climate change on populations, they may learn a great deal about species interactions from our feathered competitors.
ANDRE DHONDT: Before I start, let me first say a few nice things about the place in which we are, Mann Library. You heard it, I come from Belgium. When I wanted a paper that I needed to read, I would fill in a interlibrary loan form, and six weeks later I would receive a photocopy. Today, I simply turn on my computer, go to the Mann Library website, and download the PDF. It makes a big difference, I must say. I don't know how people wrote books in the past without that facility, but people did actually.
So what I want to do today is two things. And they will be intertwined. I want to talk about how the book was written, why the book was written, and then also clearly in that context I will say a little bit about what's in the book and so what were the conclusions are.
So the book started to some extent by accident. In 1998, I was at the IOC, the International Ornithological Congress in South Africa, which is a big conference which happens every four years. And I gave a plenary lecture about my work on competition in tits there. And after the talk, John Krebs came to me, and he said, Andre, have you ever thought about writing a book about this? I said no.
He said, well. But I said, if I were to write a book, it would be about interspecific competition. So John, of course, being who he is, contacted the science editor of Princeton University Press, which came to my office in Sapsucker Woods and said, hey, John Krebs said that you might want to write a book about this. Maybe we should talk about that. I said, yes, yes, maybe.
So a couple of years later, I had a sabbatical leave coming along. And I said, maybe I'll try to see if I can write a book at all. So I contacted the guy from Princeton University Press again. I said, are you interested? I'm going to try to do this. He said, well, we no longer do this kind of book.
So I went on sabbatical leave to Fort Collins with John Wiens and one semester. And the intent there was to see if I could write a book, meaning could I construct a table of contents. Therefore, I had to read what was published. And basically what I did for a month or two, I read 50 years of literature in a month or two to get to know what was there and think about it, see how I could structure it.
And when I left after the end of the semester, I had written not only a table of contents, but half a book. I was very pleased with myself, but again, came back to love ornithology. And at that time, I was very much involved-- I still am actually-- with this long term studies of disease in house finches. And I had no time at all to think about the book for several years.
Then my next sabbatical came along. And I said, now I'm to take a full year and see if I can finish the book. And where can you go for a full year? Well, I decided Southern France is not a bad idea. So I went to Montpellier, which is here over there in Southern France. And it's not a bad idea. It's a beautiful part of the world, lots of medieval cities, nice landscapes, beautiful flowers. And then you can learn things there.
And so what I learned there-- I'm sorry, and good food, of course, good food, France. And then you can learn how to park your car. So you drive, that's how you park your car in France. You squeeze it in. I drew the line at learning how to jump to avoid bulls or to jump over them. I did not do that. But what I did do, I worked at the Centre D'Ecologie Fonctionelle in Montpellier, which is a large research center funded by the CNRS.
CNRS is the equivalent of NSF, the difference being that in France, the CNRS funds their own research institutes. NSF doesn't do that. And the Center for Ecological Research has 100 scientists. It's a good place to go. At some point, there were six American professors at the same time visiting while I was there. So clearly, it's a place which makes sense to go when you want to interact with colleagues, a bunch of people I know there, of course. They were very welcoming.
So I spent the year in the institute. My office was there on the third floor there. So where do we start? Well, where are the ideas that we know what they're thinking about interspecific competition? And you will get a number of slides with some texts where I cite things. That way I do justice to what people say and think.
And so in 1989, there was a really interesting volume, which was published by the British Ecological Society, which was called Ecological Concepts. And there were a bunch of chapters, clearly, about different things. And the chapter on competition, which was written by Law and Watkinson, said that it was difficult to perceive a real sense of progress in our understanding of the role of competition in nature, 1989.
And then they say that we can't really say that people have done anything useful in the past. You cannot point to an accretion of knowledge to empirical questions clearly framed and unequivocally answered. Rather, we are left with an impression of a subject moving from one world view to another, depending on the influence of the prevailing protagonist.
What's really interesting for competition, but for science in general, that individual scientists can have an enormous influence of what people are allowed to think. And actually I give some illustration of that in the book when I review the ideas about competition in my first chapter.
And what are the two ideas about competition? Either it's important or it's not important. So it's important, Keddy, in his book on competition. It's a force as fundamental to ecosystems as gravity is to planetary systems. So it's pretty important. And then the other opinion really is it may be important, but until proven, we don't believe it exists as such and proven by field experiments.
So that's Keddy's book. The second edition was interesting. I have them on my desk, those two books, the first edition, which is 200 pages. The second edition is 550 pages. So he felt inspired. And so he defines-- and I like, actually, his definition of interspecific competition, which is basically the negative effects which one organism has upon another by consuming or controlling access to a resource that this limited in availability.
Controlling means in interactive, there is a behavioral component to the interaction. Consuming basically means if species A eats something which is in limited availability, it's not available for species B.
So when on the one hand, Keddy is completely convinced that competition is absolutely, essential, and fundamentally important in ecosystems, a suite of critical people, which included Underwood from Australia, John Wiens, and Nelson Hairston, which is Nelson's father, one of my heroes in science, Nelson Hairston, Sr., wrote critical reviews about the evidence supporting the existence and the importance of industrious competition.
And the type of criticism they give is not exhaustive here, but some of them I listed here, is first of all, circumstantial evidence from descriptive data cannot be used to exclude alternative hypothesis. What does this mean? If two species have allopathic distributions, this can be because they compete with one another and therefore cannot coexist, or they can simply be because they are two different species that evolve separately. You cannot exclude one or the other hypothesis. So you can't use it as evidence that competition is important.
The other, the second argument, is that competition may have been important, but no longer is important, no longer plays a role. The third criticism, which I think was valid in those days, was that very few field experiments to test for the existence of industrial decomposition were done properly. They didn't have controls. They didn't have replicates. And they usually went on for a week or two, sometimes for a month or two, but rarely for very long. So very few field experiments were done properly.
And then the fourth criticism was interesting, is that the species that were selected to test the existence of interspecific composition experimentally were a biased subset. And it's true if you look in Wiens's book for 1989. He lists the experiments competition, which existed then. 3/4 are using cavity nesting birds. Why? Cavity nesting birds, in many cases, they use nest boxes. And you can play around with nest boxes and do things. And it's not because competition is important, perhaps, in cavity nesting birds, that it is generally important in nature. So the species select is a biased subset.
Thank you. Competition occurs when resources are limiting. And this limitation has an effect on fitness or abundance. The question is, can we observe it? And can we prove it exists experimentally? And the large theme, which is recurring in my book, is the use and the need for field experiments done properly.
Now, that's an interesting problem with competition because if you look at predator-prey interactions or herbivores or parasites, you just observe that it happens. There's no discussion. You don't have to prove that predation exists. You can observe it. You don't have to prove that the mosquito is taking blood from the bird. You just observe it.
Even for mutualistic interactions, you can often observe that it exists. So you can ask different questions. You can ask the question, does predation occur? You can ask the question, what's the effect of predation on the host, on the predator, et cetera, et cetera? And the problem with competition is that although you can observe aggression, this doesn't mean that competition is taking place.
Now in this case, this is an example of aggression between, a fight between, two woodpeckers. And you see this flicker here holding on to the tip of the tongue of this poor red bellied woodpecker. In this case, it is linked to competition because they are fighting over a hole in which to breed. And there is only one hole, and there's two birds.
So in this case, the flicker who is the more aggressive species, will exclude the red bellied woodpecker from the cavity. And the red bellied woodpecker will not be able to breed to this effect on fitness. So this would be an example of interspecific competition. But it is rare that you can observe this so easily.
So there's now a big paradox, and I have four or five slides about this to make the point really clear. The paradox of interspecific competition is that it is so important that you can't observe it. And the reason you can't observe it is that it is so important that as soon as it exists, the species will evolve to avoid it. They will either go and live in different places or use different resources. So it is transient. And that's a point which has been made many, many times.
I'm very fortunate to be at Cornell and have Mann Library. And in Mann Library, we have the book by Gause from 1934. And I remember when I started in the 2001, started preparing to think about my book, I came to the library and borrowed Gause's book. And I held this book in my hand, and I said oh, God. It was unbelievable. I must say when I used it again, six years later, I could just read it online. They completely scanned the whole thing. It was kind of convenient, actually.
Anyway, but we have this book here. And Gause is one of the people who played a fundamental role in the development of ideas around interspecific competition. He's also the guy who did the first experiments, which you find in all the textbooks of ecology, which we teach every year to introductory ecology classes, the experiments which Gause performed. And the experiments were to test mathematical models, which had been developed in the 1927, 1928 by Vito Volterra, a couple of Italian scientists.
But what's interesting about Gause's idea that he formulates here is that if two species, that as a result of competition, two species that are similar do not use the same resources, basically. And he gives us a really nice example from some terns that some Russian colleague of his studied and said that although you would believe when you look at them, they eat the same thing, when you look more closely, you discover they eat different things. They use different resources.
So the systematic intensity of competition is determined not by the likeness, the closely relatedness of the species, but by the similarity of the resource they use. And this has been reformulated as the principle of competitive exclusion. Gause's principle that we all use in all the textbooks of ecology always come back to our Gause's idea. It's interesting that Gause had never formulated the principle of complex inclusion the way we use it today. That's actually as close as we come to this formulation.
So the paradox of competition is that the evidence that we use to prove the existence of competition is indirect. It's indirect because competition is transient when it occurs and the species will evolve to avoid competing further. The result of that, if that is true, you cannot test the existence of interspecific competition experimentally because today, when we observe nature, the speech that coexist do not compete if this hypothesis, this assumption is true.
And to show you how many important people believe this is true, I give you a couple of quotes. And many of you have met EO Wilson. This is when he was a bit younger with Bill Brown. And so they wrote a review on character displacement, which is an effect of interspecific competition. And I like this quote because the way it is written is so different from the way we would write today.
It says, "Interspecific composition of the direct conspicuous, unequivocal kind is apparently a relatively evanescent stage in the relationship of animal individuals or species, and therefore it is difficult to catch and record." What we usually see is the result of the competitive contact. That's Brown and Wilson.
David Lack, 1971, published a book. And David Lack was the leading ornithologist ecologist in Europe, definitely, possibly in the world in those days. He wrote multiple books. In this book, Ecological Isolation in Birds, he, in chapter after chapter, for every family of birds, he describes how the species can coexist without competing.
And actually this illustration here by Robert Gillmor illustrates the work, which David Lack did in Oxford in Wytham Woods and makes the point that although several species of tits coexist in the forest, they use different resources because they forage in different locations. The blue tit hangs upside down from the foliage and the thin twigs. The great tit forages mostly, not only on the ground. And the marsh that sits somewhere in the middle.
This is, of course, simplification. But this illustrates Lack's idea this is how it is possible that those species coexist in the same forest, although at first glance, they use the same resources. And Chris Perrins, when he wrote the book on tits in '79, explained how this comes about. Over long periods of time, natural selection has favored those individuals that have evolved ways such to be different from the others, 1979, so the idea that the competition does not exist, cannot be observed, is something which is still relatively recent.
So how did I do this? How do you handle this? I said, after reading the literature, I said, let me set up a number of necessary conditions and the number of sufficient conditions relative to interspecific competition. If any of the three necessary conditions does not occur, we do not need to discuss the possible existence of interspecific competition because they have to exist.
And what are those three conditions? Well, first one more resource are limiting. If resource are not limiting, there cannot be competition. Intraspecific competition occurs, meaning it is competition between individuals of the same species for limiting resources. In the older formulation when I was a grad student, we looked at density dependence and population regulation, which is the same thing with different words.
And then clearly, for interspecific competition to exist, resource use of potential competitors must overlap. If the two different species do not use the same resources, there will not be competition. And then sufficient conditions are basically evidence for the existence of competition, namely that if resource use by one species affects the availability for another species, so if species A eats the food, it's not available for species B.
And then the stronger evidence for the existence of interspecific competition is the effect of fitness, so the effect of the effect of competition. If the density of one species increases, then fitness of the other species will decline. And then finally, perhaps the strongest evidence, is that the presence of a species affects the distribution and/or abundance of the other species.
And I structured my book around those six ideas, basically. So in chapters 3, 4, and 5, I look at the resources which are potentially limiting, which is food, space, and nest sites. And I look at the evidence in the literature that exists that shows when people ask the question, is there limitation of space, is space, limiting, have people have done experiments with test sets, I report that. And the answer is, yes, we find a lot of examples where there is competition either for space, for food, and/or for nest sites.
What's interesting about the next site one is that the sites are also limiting for open nesting species because normally we always think our nest sites are limiting only four cavity nesting species, although some people believe actually cavity nestings are not limited, but that's OK.
But Thom Shannon did beautiful experiments where he proved that open nesting species, that the nest site for an open nester actually is a very variable resource and that it's limiting and that some species cannot use the best nest site because of competition with the different species. That's something which I think deserves more study.
Can we document in intraspecific competition? The answer is yes, of course, I would say, but the question is for which of the population processes? And what's interesting when you review this exhaustively, is that even if it's within a single group of animals, birds, you find that depending on the life history of the species, the population processes which are affected by interspecific competition are not the same.
The long lived species do not typically have effects, density-dependent effects, on reproduction. But they have density-dependent effects on dispersal. Short lived species often have density-dependent effects on reproduction and/or perhaps on mortality. And actually what I do in that chapter is that I review a number of species for which that have been studied for the entire year, and all those processes have been looked at to see which one of those processes are the ones which are most affected by interspecific composition.
And that's something which I think deserves to be done more systematically than I did myself, just to frame that chapter, which maybe I might do one day, is to do an exhaustive review of literature, to see for different life history strategies of a species, which of the population processes are most affected by interspecific competition.
The problem is that there are very few studies of animals where we study them year round. One of the studies that I summarize is by Dick Holmes is black-throated blue warbler, where he studies the effects of competition both in the breeding grounds in New Hampshire and the winter grounds in Jamaica. And he finds effects, different effects, on different components of the life history of different parts of the animal cycle.
So, yes, so that chapter, chapter 6 and chapter 7, now, that's the food. And the reason this chapter, food, comes here is that an enormous amount of work has been done where people have asked the question about foraging niches. When the species is by itself or with a potential competitor, does it look for food at the same locations? And so that's combined there, the foraging niche the direct evidence and also a lot of observational data there which are very interesting.
It was very interesting when I read that at some point, it was Douglas Moss. Some of you might know him. He used to work on birds. He looked at competition and foraging niches between birds. And so he was a young guy in 1968. And he published a paper said the pygmy nuthatch is affected by the presence of a warbler as a result of foraging. And quite strongly, he said risk competition within the species. And then a couple of years later, he writes a paper and is much more careful how he phrases this.
So I send him an email and said, Doug, what happened? What happened between '68 and '72? Why did you change your mind? Why did you rephrase the certainty you had to something much more careful? And he said, well, in those days for a young scientist-- I'm talking about the late '60s, the early '70s-- for a young scientist making the claim that interspecific competition was really important what's dangerous for your career. So that's a citation have somewhere in my book also, that email. It's kind of interesting to see that the power certain individuals have of what you're allowed to think, interesting.
Then chapter 8 is a big chapter I review exhaustively, all the field experiments which have been done on interspecific competition involving birds, some of which involve birds and insects, or birds and fish, or birds and mammals, but always birds were always involved. And in chapter 9, I summarize my own field experiments on competition between great and blue tits in Belgium.
Then we've got chapter 8, and I summarize briefly. So there is about 100 field experiments have been done that I discussed. I probably missed a few, but I don't think I missed too many. Today with the web of science and the way you can search the literature, it's pretty amazing. And my students know that I tell them you should do your homework, and I can't allow you to miss the literature. You have to read your stuff, and find it, and read it, and remember it. That's the important part.
So it's about 100. And I've split them here in this summarizing table in those where experiments where either numbers or results were manipulated, 75, and you see that most of them, but not all of them, show that there is into a interspecific competition between the species. In nine experiments, there was no evidence for competition at all. And in 13, there was evidence for facilitation.
One of the interesting things which has happened in the early '90s was by a Finnish colleague and friend, Mikkel, who did a fascinating experiment. In northern Finland, he had some islands. And in some of the islands, he added nest boxes to increase the number of tits that were there in winter. In other islands, he removed the birds. And then he watched where the migrants would arrive.
And the migrant birds, if there was competition, the migrant birds should go on the islands where the tits had been removed. But he didn't find that. He found the birds settled where the tits were present, rather than where the tits had been removed. And he called this heterospecific attraction. And the idea, the logic here, is that migrants which breed in the funnels don't have much time to make a decision where they will breed. They arrive. They have to start nesting almost immediately.
So what information do they use? Where do the birds that stayed here live? Where do the birds survive? There must be good conditions there, therefore, let me settle there also. And Mikkel and his colleagues have done a whole suite of experiments showing that facilitation occurs over and over again. It is more complicated, more interesting than that, but that's the basic idea.
And then the second row here is playback experiments, where you to test for the existence of if one species, two species co-occur, you play the song of one species, will the other species respond, yes or no? And the answer is often, but not always. See that is often but not always. And that's actually something which deserves to be looked at also in more detail. There have not been done too many experiments and especially not in tropical areas or in mountain ranges.
One of the things which clearly we are all interested in is the effects of climate change on what happens in nature. And so one of the things which-- I had this long term data from the tits in Belgium. And in 1977 I published a paper when I drew-- this is a bit technical, but just believe me that the bottom line is correct.
I drew isoclines to plot great tit density and blue tit density against one another. Each point is the number of great tits and blue tits in the same site in a particular year. And you can calculate isoclines through those points. And the way those isoclines intersect tell you if competition will have an effect that the species can coexist or not. And fortunately, we know that great tits and blue tits coexist. Fortunately, the isoclines showed that they do actually coexist. So that was lucky.
So that's 1977. We've continued the studies on tits. They're still ongoing, actually, in Antwerp. And then just after 2000, a bunch of us decided we should put all the data on titmice from Europe together. And from 1880 to 2000, we had study sites in England, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Finland, Germany, Corsica, and Russia.
And we analyzed, and we had data for 14 study sites for great and blue tits. And we looked to see if there was an effect on laying dates because of changing climates. And their answer was yes, but not always. There again, I'm not going into the details. I can explain that if you are interested.
So we found that there are effects of climate change on at least laying date, on plot initiation date, and also we found since then that actually on the whole, nesting cycle behavior has changed to some extent, by several days actually, on top of the lay dates linked to climate change.
So then we thought, well, maybe this could have an effect on the outcome of interspecific competition too. And so Neil Stenseth, a colleague of mine in Oslo, said, give me your data. I will have somebody play with them. By now, it's about seven different mathematicians have played with them. And they've produced some interesting equations, which we're not going to discuss.
But basically, this is the data. This is one study site in Belgium over a period of 45 years. And you see the red points are great tits. The blue line is blue tits. And you can see over the period of 45 years, great tit numbers have gradually increased, although they fluctuate from year to year. Blue tit numbers have decreased. We know there's competition with two species. Does competition play a role in this change in abundance of the two species?
So Neil Stenseth, so he calculated the isoclines, which as you can see, looks very similar to the ones I calculated in 1977. And the isoclines still say that the two species coexist in a stable fashion. And those are the equations which he calculated.
And then what he did, he looked at spring temperature, the April temperature. And so for part of the period-- and this turned out to be the critical temperature for the April temperature, 8.6 degrees centigrade-- if the temperature in April is warmer, the model to calculate coexistence changes, and the isoclines change in such a way that blue tits barely survive.
So the prediction of this model is that because of temperature change in April, the coexistence of great tits and blue tits is endangered. And blue tits might go extinct in a closed system. At this moment, they're not going extinct. But they might go if those things continue and become worse. So the intensity of competition can change with changing environments.
And in the book, I list a number of examples in plants and other animals that show effects of climate change on coexistence on the intensity of competition, which can become worse, can become better. One interesting reference which I've found was about 40,000 years ago-- you'll remember it was a bit colder then-- and the paper says that because of this cold spell 40,000 years ago, through the existence of interspecific competition between modern man and the Neanderthal man, Neanderthal man went extinct. So that's what the competition can do.
So we have shown that competition does exist. The conditions are fulfilled. The evidence is there. So now the next question that I want to address is can the existence of Industrial competition cause an evolutionary change? Clearly to show that experimentally, one needs long term data.
And to me, to some extent, this is we coming back full circle, whereas on the one hand 50 years ago, people said species that coexist do not compete because they compete in the past and have become different, implying that because of competition, this caused evolutionary change. I find that there is compelling evidence that competition does exist, is ongoing, therefore you would expect an evolutionary change in certain populations in certain conditions.
And clearly where we go first-- so can we identify selection pressures? How rapidly does it go? And typically we go first to where? To the Galapagos Islands, Peter and Rosemary Grant's work, and this is a particularly interesting example. It's not experimental, but close enough.
So what does this show? This shows you beak size of the medium ground finch. And this is time. And what you see is that here in 1977, there was a very severe drought, la Nina effect. And the majority of the individuals on the island, on Daphne Island, died. And only the large beaked birds survived, with the exception of three small beaked females also, but it's OK.
So here was a severe and extremely rapid evolution change caused by a lack of food and in intraspecific competition, competition between individuals of the same species. Over time, they had several recurrent events like that. And around here, a second Darwin's Finch settled on the island, magnirostris, the large beaked ground finch.
And for a while, nothing happened. The medium ground finch, the beak size didn't really change. And here we had again an extreme drought, actually two years in a row, where a large number of the Darwin's finches, the medium finches died because of lack of food, competition, but in this note was not only competition with individuals of the same species. It was also competition with individuals of a different species. And in this case a different species had a much larger beak.
So the magnirostris was able to eat the remaining large seeds which were there, therefore having them no longer available for the medium sized finch. And only the medium sized finch with small beaks could survive. And we had here to the opposite effects as regards competition here. This was caused by intraspecific competition. This was caused by interspecific competition. So that suggests that interspecific competition can cause evolution change very rapidly, depending on how you calculate it, over 20 years, over two years, but it's very rapid, regardless.
When I started my experiments on tits in Belgium, one of my objectives was to manipulate densities of the two species and to see if this would result in evolutionary change in the birds. And I give you one example for the blue tits. This is tarsus length. That's the length of the leg. This is three study sites. And what I did is here, there was a 15 year experiment. And what I did between '88 and 1989, I changed the density and therefore the intensity of interspecific competition in this one plot, in plot T, whereby I did not change anything in the two other plots.
And what happened is that in the situation, this five year period, in which the intensity of intra and interspecific competition was really high, there was a selection for larger blue tits, larger individuals, whereas in the other two sites, nothing really changed. So also this is a very rapid evolutionary change.
When you change, clearly this is artificial. It is playing around with these boxes and manipulating densities. But it's a field experiment. You don't control anything else. And there also you see that a rapid evolutionary change can happen because of a change in the intensity of interspecific competition.
So what do I conclude from writing this book? Well, interspecific competition happens today. We can observe it. It's ongoing, not everywhere, not all the time, but it's ongoing. I will not go into detail. But there is no real bias regarding the taxa used. And as regards to the quality of the field experiments, it is amazing how many really good field experiments have been done the last 10 or 20 years. It is unbelievable.
It is either that the students are better trained or that the bad experiments no longer get published, which is all both. But clearly, the quality of the field experiments in ecology has become phenomenal. I would say ecology has come of age. Field ecology has come of age fully. I'm sure for botanists this was already a long time ago. Then ongoing interspecific competition can cause rapid evolutionary changes. And it is generally important for us that we must take into account when we evaluate the community structure.
Now, hold on. Don't go away yet. This is the start of the talk. So here we go. You write a book manuscript, and can I find a publisher? So I know we knew that Princeton University Press no longer was interested. They do not do books like that. And I did find it published because the book is here. But how did this happen?
Well, I contacted Oxford University Press and I said, you have a really nice series the ecology evolution series. It might be interesting to put my book in there. And actually, I talked to several of the other editors of the series, and I said, well, yes, maybe. If you want to do this, you have to do this, and that, and the other, which I did actually.
And then six years later, I went back to Oxford to say, now I have manuscript almost finished. Are you still interested? And they say not for that series because it's only when I commissioned those books that we published the series. But we have a new series, Oxford Avian Biology. Maybe it would fit in there.
So what happens then, the publisher gives you a questionnaire. And you have to write a prospectus, which explains what the book is about, why anybody should care about this book, what other books exist in the field which are similar, and therefore would compete-- this time, that's an important concept here-- and then what is the structure of the book, and can you write half a page about each chapter, et cetera, et cetera.
You send this prospectus to the publisher, and the publisher sends it out to a number of reviewers. Now, two things-- so the first reviewer said question five is, do you recommend publishing this book? The publisher says, ha ha, not really. Actually when I read this, I said, interesting. The book is somewhat dated. Topic of competition is no one is interested in ecology. Although Dhondt is OK to write this book, it's about 20 years too late.
Fortunately, the three other reviewers said, yes, you should do this book. And so this is some nice things that on why this book should be done. So when I received those comments from the reviewers, I'm in Oslo at the meeting for Neil Stenseth, who had his 60th birthday. And to have a feast for his 60th birthday, he invited a number of his colleagues with whom he had collaborated for a three day symposium, which I think it was a phenomenal symposium.
And then it ended then with a dinner. And I can guarantee you, it is true, Norwegians give speeches which never end. The dinner was finished as 3:00 in the morning, with only three or four speeches. So that's OK. Anyway, so I read those comments in my hotel. I go to the symposium. And between two talks, I sit next to Peter Grant. I say, Peter, I just received the comments from the reviewers. One is really bad, but the three others are good. And one is really, really useful. The review gives me really helpful advice how to change certain things in the book.
He looks at me and says, yeah, this was me. So I said, well, thank you. I'm glad I said it was helpful rather than-- So the book gets published. And then you wait. What will people say about your book? Of course, I can say all the nice things about my book here because nobody-- well, you can talk back to me in a moment. But then you wait to see what the reviewers write.
And today, there's actually two reviews have appeared in April, one in terms of ecology and evolution. And I would say I couldn't have written it myself. It was really nice. And what's interesting, the point she makes-- and actually, I don't know this lady. I'm good enough. I don't really know her. But when I meet her, I will say thank you.
What points she makes is that it is more than just for ornithology, which clearly wasn't the objective of writing the book. I'm an ornithologist, yes, but I'm an ecologist, population ecologist, behavior ecologist, and evolution ecologist. I'm all of the above. I'm interested in birds. I know more about birds than most other groups of organisms. But when you do something in science, you want it to be more generally useful, rather than more specifically.
So the fact that she says that the book is more than just an ornithology resource, it's kind of nice. So that objective was attained. And then two days ago, I got this comment from Ken Otter from the University of Northern British Columbia, where he says it's a good book also. So he liked it too. So having said that, I will stop. If you have any questions, I may be able to answer them. Thank you.
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Three main types of biotic interactions between individuals of different species exist in nature: competition, predation, and mutualism. All three exert powerful selection pressures, and all three shape communities. However, the true importance of interspecific competition in nature remains a controversial and unresolved question.
In a Chats in the Stacks book talk at Mann Library on April 26, 2012, professor Dr. Andre' Dhondt discusses his new book "Interspecific Competition in Birds," providing a critical review of the topic and highlighting the impact of both past and on-going interspecific competition on the coexistence of species.