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03 - Struggle for Existence 03-11 - The Relation of Organism to Organism the Most Important of All Relations 10 A corollary of the highest importance may be deduced from the foregoing remarks, namely, that the structure of every organic being is related, in the most essential yet often hidden manner, to that of all the other organic beings, with which it comes into competition for food or residence, or from which it has to escape, or on which it preys.

This is obvious in the structure of the teeth and talons of the tiger; and in that of the legs and claws of the parasite which clings to the hair on the tiger's body.

talon
talon

tiger
tiger

Head Louse Claw
Head Louse Claw


But in the beautifully plumed seed of the dandelion, and in the flattened and fringed legs of the water-beetle, the relation seems at first confined to the elements of air and
water.

dandelion
dandelion

flying seeds
flying seeds

Water Beetle
Water Beetle


Yet the advantage of plumed seeds no doubt stands in the closest relation to the land being already thickly clothed with other plants; so that the seeds may be widely distributed and fall on unoccupied ground.

In the water-beetle, the structure of its legs, so well adapted for diving, allows it to compete with other aquatic insects, to hunt for its own prey, and to escape serving as prey to other animals.
03 - Struggle for Existence 03-11 - The Relation of Organism to Organism the Most Important of All Relations 20 The store of nutriment laid up within the seeds of many plants seems at first to have no sort of relation to other plants.

But from the strong growth of young plants produced from such seeds, as peas and beans, when sown in the midst of long grass, it may be suspected that the chief use of the nutriment in the seed is to favour the growth of the seedlings, whilst struggling with other plants growing vigorously all around.

pea
pea

grass
grass

seedling
seedling
03 - Struggle for Existence 03-11 - The Relation of Organism to Organism the Most Important of All Relations 30 Look at a plant in the midst of its range, why does it not double or quadruple its numbers?

We know that it can perfectly well withstand a little more heat or cold, dampness or dryness, for elsewhere it ranges into slightly hotter or colder, damper or drier districts. In this case we can clearly see that if we wish in imagination to give the plant the power of increasing in number, we should have to give it some advantage over its competitors, or over the animals which prey on it.

On the confines of its geographical range, a change of constitution with respect to climate would clearly be an advantage to our plant; but we have reason to believe that only a few plants or animals range so far, that they are destroyed exclusively by the rigour of the climate.

Not until we reach the extreme confines of life, in the Arctic regions or on the borders of an utter desert, will competition cease.

The land may be extremely cold or dry, yet there will be competition between some few species, or between the individuals of the same species, for the warmest or dampest spots.
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03 - Struggle for Existence 03-11 - The Relation of Organism to Organism the Most Important of All Relations 40 Hence we can see that when a plant or animal is placed in a new country amongst new competitors, the conditions of its life will generally be changed in an essential manner, although the climate may be exactly the same as in its former home.

If its average numbers are to increase in its new home, we should have to modify it in a different way to what we should have had to do in its native country; for we should have to give it some advantage over a different set of competitors or enemies.