I am interested in the historical priority in population biology, essays or monographs, discussing the concept of territoriality prior to 1950.

What is it? In the early 18th century discussions of mortality due to conflict or starvation resulting from the scarcity of food, there was an implicit belief that the end result in the surviving population is widespread malnutrition, and some mortality due to starvation. Later, biologists and demographers realized that often no malnutrition in the surviving part of the population occurs, but a much greater mortality rate from starvation is observed.

If there are two stronger individuals, two weaker individuals and one pie, the outcome often is not that each individual takes a quarter of the pie due to common competition. That would result in general malnutrition if the food supply is sufficiently scarce, in turn causing us to observe starvation equally distributed in the population. Instead, in species with territoriality, the stronger (typically more aggressive) individuals each eat their fill (how much they would consume in the case food was not scarce) let's say half the pie, and the weaker individuals starve. This occurs because the stronger individuals expel the weaker individuals from larger foraging areas in proportion to the scarcity of food. Eventually, weaker individuals are expelled to areas without food, or are left with insufficient foraging areas to feed themselves, rather than all individuals competing for food in a single area.

  • $\begingroup$ I always thought that population dynamics only goes back to early 19th century, Malthus, Verhulst and Gompertz being the principal contributors. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Feb 26, 2015 at 18:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, and Euler too, but they assumed the entire population would engage in competition. Really, in territorial species, part of the population is first pushed out entirely from access to food, and the dominant individuals compete amongst themselves, resulting a in a different distribution. Which was a detail that did not interest Malthus, etc. The point for Malthus was that mortality increased in the population, not specific prediction of the distribution of mortality. That was a question that seems to be discussed only later. $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2015 at 0:03


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.