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Keywords:

  • Paleoanthropology;
  • Hominid paleoecology;
  • Competitive exclusion principle;
  • Single species hypothesis;
  • Niche

Abstract

Some paleonanthropologists invoke the competitive exclusion principle programmatically in support of a single-species (or lineage) hypothesis of hominid evolution. Others apparently accept the association between competitive exclusion and a single species view, and develop multi-species interpretations using only taxonomic concepts. This paper demonstrates that the competitive exclusion principle itself is too assumption-bound to be appropriate for analyzing questions of hominid coexistence. Especially, the principle does not establish the ecological validity of the single-species hypothesis. Contrary to its immediate appearances, the principle has developed historically and analytically to predict and explain the evolution and maintenance of diversity in communities. Used in this manner it constitutes an important basis for the study of hominid paleoecology. Niche concepts necessary to demonstrate this are introduced, and competition and other factors that may have influenced the realized niches of sympatric hominid species are discussed. Nearly all modifications of the competitive exclusion principle that make it more realistic also illuminate factors that generate stable coexistence among competing species. These factors and their organizing theory establish the relevance of a broad data base to the analysis of hominid paleoecology; they should help to guide research on the ecology of early homonid species and their interrelationships.