Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Keystone Species

Species important in determining the persistence of biological diversity within its ecological community. First described in a study of the Pacific Northwest tidal community where it was observed that removal of starfish led to overpopulation of mussels (starfish prey), which in turn led to a decrease in diversity as mussels crowded out other animal species and overconsumed plant species. Primates have been suggested as keystone species in some ecosystems because of their role as seed dispersers and pollinators.

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