Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Year of Darwin 8/22/2014: What keeps organisms from increasing exponentially?

 Charles Darwin

"The causes which check the natural tendency of each species to increase are most obscure." Charles Darwin, Origin of Species 2nd edition

I would say that this question went largely unanswered until recently. What was it that shed the most light on this question? Was it a technology? 

I would argue that the question of population regulation is best addressed analytically. Getting the data to answer the question is easy: counting babies, individuals, marking, capturing, etc. But the data by themselves tell us nothing. 

Leslie or Lefcovitch population models address this question directly and, though these tools have been a around for a few decades, the raw data, the computing power, and the stastical methods (e.g., Bayesian and maximum likelihood) were not able to come together until recently. 

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