Our living world is fascinatingly diverse and amazingly complex. We can try to understand its complexity by investigating processes at various levels of biological organisation–macromolecules, cells, tissues, organs, individual organisms, population, communities and ecosystems and biomes.
At any level of biological organisation we can ask two types of questions – for example, when we hear the bulbul singing early morning in the garden, we may ask – ‘How does the bird sing?’ Or, ‘Why does the bird sing ?’ The ‘how-type’ questions seek the mechanism behind the process while the ‘whytype’ questions seek the significance of the process.
For the first question in our example, the answer might be in terms of the operation of the voice box and the vibrating bone in the bird, whereas for the second question the answer may lie in the bird’s need to communicate with its mate during breeding season.
When you observe nature around you with a scientific frame of mind you will certainly come up with many interesting questions of both types - Why are night-blooming flowers generally white? How does the bee know which flower has nectar? Why does cactus have so many thorns? How does the chick recognise her own mother?, and so on.
You have already learnt in previous classes that Ecology is a subject which studies the interactions among organisms and between the organism and its physical (abiotic) environment.
Ecology is basically concerned with four levels of biological organisation – organisms, populations, communities and biomes. In this chapter we explore ecology at organismic and population levels.