Density-Dependent Regulation

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Graph of fecundity as a function of population plots number of eggs per female versus number of worms. The number of eggs decreases rapidly at first, then levels off between 30 to 50 worms.
In this population of roundworms, fecundity (number of eggs) decreases with population density. Source: OpenStax Biology 2e

OpenStax Biology 2e

Most density-dependent factors are biological in nature (biotic), and include predation, inter- and intraspecific competition, accumulation of waste, and diseases such as those caused by parasites. Usually, the denser a population is, the greater its mortality rate. For example, during intra- and interspecific competition, the reproductive rates of the individuals will usually be lower, reducing their population’s rate of growth. In addition, low prey density increases the mortality of its predator because it has more difficulty locating its food source.

An example of density-dependent regulation is shown in the graph above with results from a study focusing on the giant intestinal roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), a parasite of humans and other mammals. Denser populations of the parasite exhibited lower fecundity: they contained fewer eggs. One possible explanation for this is that females would be smaller in more dense populations (due to limited resources) and that smaller females would have fewer eggs. This hypothesis was tested and disproved in a 2009 study which showed that female weight had no influence.4 The actual cause of the density-dependence of fecundity in this organism is still unclear and awaiting further investigation.


Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at:


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