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Why Are There So Many Species in Tropical Rainforests?

• December 10, 2010 • 5:32 PM

Tropical ecologist Simon Queenborough addresses the mystery behind the fabulous array of plants and animals found in tropical rainforests.

One of the great mysteries of the world is why tropical rainforests contain so many species. In one spectacular example, a tiny area of the Ecuadorian rainforest, about 100 acres in size, contains more tree species than all of North America.

But just how do so many species coexist?

Dr. Simon Queenborough, a tropical ecologist and postdoctoral associate at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, discusses the hidden factors that keep even the strongest species from dominating. In a recent paper in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, he discovers that factors large and small – from topography to parasites – work together to allow a stunning number of species to all survive in one place.

To hear Curiouser & Curiouser host Jai Ranganathan interview Dr. Queenborough, click on the podcast player above.

Jai Ranganathan
Dr. Jai Ranganathan is a biologist and his research focuses on questions of species conservation. He can be reached at jai.ranganathan at

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