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Opportunistic Species

Environmental Resources And Opportunities, Opportunistic Species In Novel Circumstances

Opportunistic species of animals or plants are adapted to exploit newly available habitats or resources and are typically found in unpredictable, transient, and variable environments. For example, clear-cut forests create well-lit open areas which are colonized rapidly by the windbone seeds of opportunistic species of plants, many of which are regarded as weeds by farmers and gardeners. Besides producing easily dispersed seeds, opportunistic species characteristically have a rapid growth rate, quickly establishing themselves in the new environment. Opportunistic species also have other characteristics: they reproduce early, have a small body size, and produce large numbers of seeds or offspring, a strategy known to ecologists as r-selection. Opportunistic species are most prominent during the early stages of ecological succession, when species that are more competitive in the long run are not very abundant. Opportunistic species have a great ability to alter their growth rate, physiology, or behavior to better suit the environmental conditions with which they are faced. Usually, this opportunistic response is accomplished without changes in the genotype, in which case it is known as phenotypic plasticity.

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