Re: Ecology & Prax

From: K. Suderman (
Date: Fri 30 May 1997 - 20:51:30 EEST

>>this is not a normal prey - predator relationship. It would be of no
>concern >for the sable tribe if the bolo-lizards are exterminated.
> Look, Frank, it's of no concern to the coyote if the pronghorn is
>exterminated. Coyotes don't think ahead of the consequences should they
>devour all of this prey animal. Neither do the Praxians. Instead, they raid
>whatever tribes are nearby. Naturally, the more numerous tribes are more
>common, and get raided more often. Rare tribes are less-often raided.

        Um (and that's a tentative, throat clearing "um", not a sublimated
flame), an interesting bit of evolution arcana: Over the long run, it can
*appear* that the coyote (for example) is preserving the pronghorn. If
coyotes that consistently seek and destroy pronghorns tend to die off (for
whatever reason) while coyotes that avoid eating the last pronghorn tend to
live (and reproduce), the pronghorn-preserving coyotes will ultimately
dominate the population (all else being equal). At no point is a coyote
making a conscious decision based on future consequences, but the result can
be the same...

        Further trivia: Optimal foraging theory says that, in a
food-limited environment, it pays to become a food generalist. In other
words, if there's very little to eat, you can't be picky. That seems to be
the case in Prax, which means that "they raid whatever tribes are nearby."
The bison riders won't spare the rhinos just to get to those juicy sables.
        BUT, optimal foraging theory also includes handling time (the time
from locating a food item to the time when it is ingested and the next
search can begin). In the case of the rhino riders as prey, it may take
more time/effort/etc. to raid them than it would to track down those sables.
(And to make it more complex, we could factor in the value of the prey- in
this case, the metal weapons the sable riders have...)

        One final aspect of optimal foraging theory: When two food
generalists compete, reduced body size is advantagous and will be selected
for by evolution. Of course, I'm not sure that this aspect of deep-sea
ecology should be applied to Prax... However, if I can work it into an
amusing story... [Hats off to Owen for bringing math to Prax]


Keith Suderman Department of Oceanography
Florida State University Phone: (904) 644-2599
Tallahassee, Fl 32306 e-mail:


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