Population Fluctuations in Mammals
hough they have been
known since at least the sixteenth century, the
seemingly wild fluctuations of boreal mammal populations from year to year
remains one of today's great scientific mysteries.
by Aaron King, Ph.D.
Despite seventy-five years of intensive study, the cause of these cycles
remains elusive. Some have proposed some pretty wild explanations.
Could the cycle be related to sunspots? Or perhaps to the alignments
of Venus and Mars? Recent research at the University of Arizona promises
to give insight as to how the more mundane interactions of hares and their
environment can give rise to cyclic population fluctuations.
In the following, we'll look at answers to the following questions:
do we mean by "cyclic fluctuations"?
Which populations of animals show these cycles?
What are some of the possible causes?
How does mathematics help us to study this problem?
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