Where are you likely to see your favourite plant or animal in the wild? The first requirement is a place with just the right environmental conditions: perhaps warm and dry, or maybe cold and wet. A second, less obvious requirement is the right collection of additional species: a predator can't exist without its prey, and a plant can't exist without its pollinators. In new research, Staniczenko and colleagues show that competition more so than collaboration drives species' presences. This finding will help scientists identify species at risk of extinction due to increasing competition for smaller and smaller patches of suitable habitat.