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•  Species tend to produce more offspring than the environment can support

The Malthusian dilemma was proposed by English clergyman Thomas Malthus who identified that populations multiply geometrically (i.e. exponential progression), while food resources only increase arithmetically (i.e. linear progression)

  • In other words, species tend to produce more offspring than the environment can sustainably support

If left to follow course, a stable population will inevitably outgrow its resource base, leading to competition for survival

  • When there is an abundance of resources,  a population will grow according to its biotic potential (exponential J-curve)
  • With more offspring, there are less resources available to other members of the population (environmental resistance)
  • This will lead to a struggle for survival and an increase in the mortality rate (causing population growth to slow and plateau)

This concept is central to Darwin’s understanding of ‘survival of the fittest’ – any trait that is beneficial for competitive survival will be more likely to be passed on to offspring according to natural selection

Malthusian Dilemma

malthusian dilemma