Mixed flock:
I read (Benefits of mixed Flocks NATURE vol. 492 no. 7429 December 20/27 2013 page 114 reviewing work by Kartik Shanker et al. of the Indian Institute of Bengladore Am. Nat. 180, 777-790 (2012)) ecologists tend to assume that species within a community will be more different from each other than would be predicted by chance because that reduces competition between species.  That is an understatement.  I can almost quote the rhapsodic tone in which the idea was presented to me describing different birds exploiting the same tree; so many different verbs.  It was poetry.  And now it turns out it wasn’t science.

In fact there are mixed flocks of birds.  And they are more likely to be related species than chance would predict.  Didn’t we just learn something like that about spiders?  Isn’t there a pattern here?  If you want a larger community you are going to need subtly different species. 

It’s always heartwarming to see natural history turning up cases of cooperation.  I was sick of the book The Selfish Gene from the moment I read the title.  It cannot be the whole story.  Genes have to work together.  And different species have to work together in order to increase their numbers.  I plan to keep an eye out for more examples.  This could be the eye opener.

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