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...But when he removed the starfish and tossed them into the ocean, that balance collapsed and one kind of mussel took over. Paine coined a term to describe the starfish’s outsize influence: keystone species. Keystone species have since been identified in forests, in grasslands, in the ocean and even in the human gut. The concept has become one of ecology’s guiding theoretical principles, and it has had a profound impact, inspiring, among other things, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, where they help control elk that can otherwise overgraze aspen and willow trees. If Paine, who died in June, had been a physicist, chemist or cell biologist, such a fundamental, broadly applicable and hugely influential paradigm would probably have put him in contention for a Nobel prize. ...Live Mint on Oct. 5, 2016, 1:05 a.m.