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Copyright ©2017 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved. Most species have one or more natural enemies, e.g., predators, parasites, pathogens, and herbivores, among others. These species in turn typically attack multiple victim species. This leads to the possibility of indirect interactions among those victims, both positive and negative. The term apparent competition commonly denotes negative indirect interactions between victim species that arise because they share a natural enemy. This indirect interaction, which in principle can be reflected in many facets of the distribution and abundance of individual species and more broadly govern the structure of ecological communities in time and space, pervades many natural ecosystems. It also is a central theme in many applied ecological problems, including the control of agricultural pests, harvesting, the conservation of endangered species, and the dynamics of emerging diseases. At one end of the scale of life, apparent competition characterizes intriguing aspects of dynamics within individual organisms-for example, the immune system is akin in many ways to a predator that can induce negative indirect interactions among different pathogens. At intermediate scales of biological organization, the existence and strength of apparent competition depend upon many contingent details of individual behavior and life history, as well as the community and spatial context within which indirect interactions play out. At the broadest scale of macroecology and macroevolution, apparent competition may play a major, if poorly understood, role in the evolution of species' geographical ranges and adaptive radiations.

Original publication




Journal article


Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics

Publication Date





447 - 471