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Journal Article

Rewriting ecological succession history: did carrion ecologists get there first?

Jean-Philippe Michaud, Kenneth G. Schoenly and Gaétan Moreau
The Quarterly Review of Biology
Vol. 90, No. 1 (March 2015), pp. 45-66
DOI: 10.1086/679763
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/679763
Page Count: 22
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Rewriting ecological succession history: did carrion ecologists get there first?
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Abstract

ABSTRACTEcological succession is arguably the most enduring contribution of plant ecologists and its origins have never been contested. However, we show that French entomologist Pierre Mégnin, while collaborating with medical examiners in the late 1800s, advanced the first formal definition and testable mechanism of ecological succession. This discovery gave birth to the twin disciplines of carrion ecology and forensic entomology. As a novel case of multiple independent discovery, we chronicle how the disciplines of plant and carrion ecology (including forensic entomology) accumulated strikingly similar parallel histories and contributions. In the 1900s, the two groups diverged in methodology and purpose, with carrion ecologists and forensic entomologists focusing mostly on case reports and observational studies instead of hypothesis testing. Momentum is currently growing, however, to develop the ecological framework of forensic entomology and advance carrion ecology theory. Researchers are recognizing the potential of carcasses as subjects for testing not only succession mechanisms (without assuming space-for-time substitution), but also aggregation and coexistence models, diversity-ecosystem function relationships, and the dynamics of pulsed resources. By comparing the contributions of plant and carrion ecologists, we hope to stimulate future crossover research that leads to a general theory of ecological succession.

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