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Two Decades of Homage to Santa Rosalia: Toward a General Theory of Diversity

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icb/21.4.877 877-888 First published online: 1 November 1981


In 1959, in his seminal paper “Homage to Santa Rosalia,” G. E. Hutchinson asked, Why are there so many kinds of organisms? This paper focused attention on problems of species diversity and community organization that have occupied many theoretical and empirical ecologists for the last two decades. In the present paper I evaluate the attempt to answer Hutchinson's question by considering three topics. First, I reexamine the main themes which Hutchinson developed in “The Homage” and call attention to the central importance of energetic relationships in his view of ecological communities. Second, I examine the development of theoretical community ecology over the last two decades in an attempt to determine why some avenues of investigation, such as competition theory, have proven disappointing, whereas others, such as the theory of island biogeography, have enjoyed at least modest success. Finally, I suggest that future attempts to understand patterns of species diversity might focus on developing two kinds of theoretical constructs: capacity rules, which describe how characteristics of the physical environment determine its capacity to support life, and allocation rules, which describe how limited energetic resources are subdivided among species.

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