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Are there examples of species that have driven themselves into extinction by being too good at what they are doing? Like a predator that evolves to hunt so efficiently that it kills all it's prey and then goes extinct itself.

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    $\begingroup$ Humans seem like they're on this course. You may be interested in predator-prey dynamics. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Mar 30, 2017 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ There is evidence that lemming populations approach this in ~4-year cycles of population proliferation and crashing. They've rebounded through these cycles, so it's not quite an extinction example, but it shows that catastrophic success definitely has precedent. Here's a brief article on the relationship between predator-prey trends: vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlifeencounters/grade9_12/lesson2/…. $\endgroup$
    – Harris
    Mar 30, 2017 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ Seems like there's a need to define "success". If a predator wipes out its own food source, is that really "success", or just a different kind of failure? If a human becomes wealthy and uses all of that money to eat McDonalds until they die, then would you say that they died from "success"? $\endgroup$
    – Nat
    Mar 31, 2017 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Nat It is a success in the species's ability to gather resources and proliferate. The failure is in both its predators and prey. I suppose it could be argued that it has a failure to adapt to starvation conditions, but in the case of lemmings at least, they evidently are adapted well enough to have some survivors and rebound. $\endgroup$
    – Harris
    Mar 31, 2017 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ @HarrisWeinstein Seems like any species that drives itself to extinction's failed in the most basic of senses. But, this question words it is in such a seemingly positive way - "becoming too successful". Like a heroin addict who overdoses dies from being too successful at getting heroin. Or like gunshot victims are die from being too successful at getting free bullets. Positivity's great, but when examining how a species drove itself to extinction, it'd seem appropriate to characterize that suicidal behavior as something other than "success". $\endgroup$
    – Nat
    Mar 31, 2017 at 13:42

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yes, infectious bacteria are a good example, a highly destructive infection may often kill its host before it can spread the disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27114/

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