From Biology-Online Dictionary | Biology-Online Dictionary


noun, plural: niches

(ecology) The specific area where an organism inhabits

(ecology) The role or function of an organism or species in an ecosystem

(ecology) The interrelationship of a species with all the biotic and abiotic factors affecting it

(general) A cavity, hollow, or recess, especially in a wall


In ecology, a niche may pertain to a variety of meanings. It is probably due to the definition of niche that has changed overtime. Joseph Grinnell in 1917 coined the term niche, which he used as largely equivalent to a species habitat. In 1927, Charles Sutherland Elton regarded niche to be equivalent to the position of a species in a trophic web. In 1958, George Evelyn Hutchinson used the term niche to describe the multi-dimensional space of resources available to and used by a species. Despite the varying definitions of niche, it is generally considered to pertain to how an organism or a population responds to as well as alters competition and the distribution of resources. It particularly describes the relational position of an organism or a population in a particular ecosystem.

Word origin: From Old (and modern) French niche, from nichier ‘make a nest’ (modern nicher), from Latin nidus ‘nest’

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