Theories of Locating Habitats for Survival

Locating habitats for survival is a process by which animals search for and select a suitable habitat that meets their basic needs for survival, such as food, water, shelter, and breeding opportunities. Finding appropriate environments is critical for animal survival and reproductive success because it guarantees access to the resources they require to flourish in their environment.

Various variables, such as an animal's physical requirements, environmental circumstances, and rivalry with other species, can all influence the process of finding places for life. Various animals may use migration, dispersal, or social behaviour to find environments. Finally, the capacity to find and utilize appropriate habitats is critical for animal groups' long-term survival and persistence.

Theories of Locating Habitats for Survival

Several theories explain how animals locate habitats for survival, such as the habitat selection theory, which suggests that animals will choose habitats based on their specific requirements for survival; ecological niche theory, which suggests that animals will select habitats based on their specific ecological niche, the savanna theory which suggests that some animals select habitats based on the availability of open grasslands or savannas and the habitat imprinting theory that suggests that during a critical period of development, young animals learn to recognize and prefer certain features of their habitat or environment and other theories as well.

The Savanna Theory

The savanna theory in habitat selection suggests that some animals select habitats based on open grasslands or savanna availability. The theory proposes that animals that prefer open habitats with scattered trees, such as many ungulates (hoofed animals) and some predators, are more likely to select savannas as their primary habitat. This is because savannas offer a combination of grasses, shrubs, and trees that provide food, shelter, and other resources these animals need to survive. The savanna theory suggests that animals that prefer closed habitats, such as dense forests, are less likely to select savannas as their primary habitat. This is because savannas lack the dense vegetation these animals require for food and shelter.

According to American ecologist Stephen J. Orians, animals will choose environments that reduce the amount of energy they spend while searching for sustenance. Suppose an animal's primary nesting site is in a wooded area. In that case, it is more likely to graze in adjacent areas with high-quality food supplies rather than in remote locations that require more energy consumption. This approach helps the animal preserve energy and maximize its foraging effectiveness.

Habitat Imprinting Theory

Habitat imprinting theory is an animal behaviour idea that proposes that young animals learn to recognize and favour specific characteristics of their habitat or surroundings during a crucial time of development. According to the theory, this early learning process is critical for animals to acquire the skills and behaviours required to live and reproduce in their surroundings.

Animals imprint on their natal or birth environment during a crucial time of growth, according to John Wecker, which affects their habitat choices later in life. Wecker proposed that habitat imprinting occurs when an animal is subjected to characteristics of its natal area, such as flora, terrain, and other environmental signals

Wecker's study was centred on sparrows, specifically the white-crowned sparrow. He discovered that juvenile sparrows learn to recognize the distinctive features of their natal environment, such as the regularity and rhythm of avian songs. Consequently, adults are more likely to return to their birth environment to breed and develop territories. Overall, Wecker's contribution to habitat imprinting theory advanced our knowledge of how creatures learn to recognize and choose appropriate environments.

Prospect Refuge Theory

The Prospect-refuge theory is an idea that describes how people and animals perceive and use space. According to the theory, humans and animals are drawn to places that provide a mix of prospects, the ability to observe and scan the surrounding area and sanctuary, or the ability to find cover and hide from danger. Jay Appleton, a British geographer, originated the prospect-refuge theory. He suggested that humans are drawn to environments that provide both prospect and refuge because they give them a feeling of stability and control over their surroundings.

He contended that our predilection for specific environments stems from our evolutionary past, as humans and their predecessors have always sought environments that provide safety from predators and other threats. Appleton's prospect-refuge theory study has significant consequences for landscape design and planning. Understanding how humans and animals view and use space allows planners to create more appealing and valuable settings while tackling safety and security issues.

Ecological Niche Theory

Ecological niche theory is an idea that explains how species engage with their surroundings and other species in order to sustain their numbers. According to the theory, each species has a distinct ecological niche: it is part of its environment, including physical and biological interactions with other species and habitat needs.

Ecological niche theory proposes that creatures choose habitats based on their unique ecological needs in the setting of habitat selection. Adaptations have developed that enable each species to live and propagate in specific environments, such as specific food resources, temperature variations, and other environmental variables. According to the idea, species will only inhabit a habitat if appropriate for their ecological niche.

For example, a bird species that need a particular type of flora for breeding and eating will choose an environment that offers those resources, such as a wooded region. If the vegetation in that region is disturbed or killed, the birds may be compelled to relocate or experience population declines.

A Study on Habitat Selection

The Deer Mouse study conducted by Wecker in 1963 aimed to investigate how habitat influences the distribution and habitat selection of Deer Mice (Peromyscus maniculatus). The study was conducted in a mixed deciduous forest in Indiana, USA. Wecker set up a series of live traps at different locations and habitats within the forest, such as open fields, forest edges, and forest interiors. The traps were baited with oats and checked daily for four months to capture Deer Mice. Wecker then recorded the number of captures in each location and habitat type to assess how habitat influenced the distribution of Deer Mice.

Wecker discovered that Deer Mice were more numerous in the interior and edges of forests than in open areas. This indicated that they favoured woodland environments. Wecker discovered that Deer Mice were more numerous in regions with a thick ground cover because they offered refuge and safety from predators. The study also found that Deer Mice were more likely to be captured in traps placed near logs, stumps, and brush piles, which also provided cover and nesting sites.

This indicated that Deer Mice preferred habitats with structural complexity. The study's results have implications for understanding how habitat affects the spread of Deer, Mice and other small mammals, which can be used to guide conservation and management efforts.


Habitat selection is a complex process influenced by various ecological factors, including the availability of resources, the physical environment, and the species' evolutionary history. The Savanna theory suggests that early humans preferred open grasslands. The habitat imprinting and prospect-refuge theories explain how animals and humans learn to recognize and select suitable habitats.

Ecological niche theory highlights the importance of preserving and protecting habitats that support a diverse range of ecological niches for the survival and sustainability of species. This altogether helps environmentalists take better and more informed decisions.

Updated on: 20-Apr-2023


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