Wolves and cod

What is a keystone species? Perhaps you know what that term means. But in case you want to find out, the National Geographic shows us a film and some words about keystone species.

My fellow blogger skepticalsquirrel mentioned in a comment to my post about wolves (Canis lupus) that ‘the wolf was a keystone species’ in Yellowstone National Park in the USA. The National Geographic article doesn’t talk of wolves but it does talk of mountain lions and sea stars (predators) as well as hummingbirds (pollinators). It’s paradoxical, but true, that a species eating herbivores can be crucial to the herbivores’ survival.

I’m reminded of the Newfoundland cod (Gadus morhua), mentioned by the same skepticalsquirrel (who should be renamed excellentsquirrel) in comments to my post about the North Sea cod. The Newfoundland cod was a keystone species, as shown by the way its overfishing led to a dramatic shift in that fishery’s ecosystem.

The story of the Newfoundland fishery isn’t over. A few months ago the Globe and Mail told us that cod was making a comeback in Newfoundland. As EqFe pointed out in a comment to my cod post, making a comeback isn’t the same as having *made* a comeback. But it’s encouraging. Apparently the Newfoundland proto-recovery is attributed to rising ocean temperatures.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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3 Responses to Wolves and cod

  1. Thanks for the cod link! It seems from that article that what is happening is that due to the warming waters, especially during the winter, the species which have been dominant are leaving the area, allowing the cod to recover slightly.

    It will be interesting to see how that ecosystem develops, will the rising numbers of cod have sufficient foodstuffs if other species are leaving for example.

    • argylesock says:

      This. I’d be grateful for any tip-offs of breaking news on this story. Perhaps eivindburkow at The Coastal House will tell us – he’s a good blogger, my main source of fisheries science. Do you follow him?

      • EqFe says:

        Sadly, I hope that there is little news on this front, which would be the best thing for the cod recovery. Cod has gotten quite expensive on the east coast of both countries, and any indication of further recovery will create political pressure in both Canada and the US to allow fishing.

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