Does litter size variation affect models of terrestrial carnivore extinction risk and management?

Devenish-Nelson, Eleanor and Stephens, Phillip and Harris, Stephen and Soulsbury, Carl and Richards, Shane (2013) Does litter size variation affect models of terrestrial carnivore extinction risk and management? PloS One, 8 (2). e58060. ISSN 1932-6203

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0058060

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Abstract

Background: Individual variation in both survival and reproduction has the potential to influence extinction risk. Especially
for rare or threatened species, reliable population models should adequately incorporate demographic uncertainty. Here,
we focus on an important form of demographic stochasticity: variation in litter sizes. We use terrestrial carnivores as an
example taxon, as they are frequently threatened or of economic importance. Since data on intraspecific litter size variation are often sparse, it is unclear what probability distribution should be used to describe the pattern of litter size variation for multiparous carnivores.

Methodology/Principal Findings: We used litter size data on 32 terrestrial carnivore species to test the fit of 12 probability
distributions. The influence of these distributions on quasi-extinction probabilities and the probability of successful disease control was then examined for three canid species – the island fox Urocyon littoralis, the red fox Vulpes vulpes, and the African wild dog Lycaon pictus. Best fitting probability distributions differed among the carnivores examined. However, the discretised normal distribution provided the best fit for the majority of species, because variation among litter-sizes was often small. Importantly, however, the outcomes of demographic models were generally robust to the distribution used.

Conclusion/Significance: These results provide reassurance for those using demographic modelling for the management of less studied carnivores in which litter size variation is estimated using data from species with similar reproductive attributes.

Keywords:carnivores, extinction, Mathematical Modelling
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:9389
Deposited On:12 May 2013 18:20

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