Estimating survival rates of uncatchable animals: the myth of high juvenile mortality in reptiles

David A. Pike, Lígia Pizzatto, Brian A. Pike, Richard Shine

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131 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Survival rates of juvenile reptiles are critical population parameters but are difficult to obtain through mark-recapture programs because these small, secretive animals are rarely caught. This scarcity has encouraged speculation that survival rates of juveniles are very low, and we test this prediction by estimating juvenile survival rates indirectly. A simple mathematical model calculates the annual juvenile survival rate needed to maintain a stable population size, using published data on adult survival rates, reproductive output, and ages at maturity in 109 reptile populations encompassing 57 species. Counter to prediction, estimated juvenile survival rates were relatively high (on average, only about 13% less than those of conspecific adults) and highly correlated with adult survival rates. Overall, survival rates during both juvenile and adult life were higher in turtles than in snakes, and higher in snakes than in lizards. As predicted from life history theory, rates of juvenile survival were higher in species that produce large offspring, and higher in viviparous squamates than in oviparous species. Our analyses challenge the widely held belief that juvenile reptiles have low rates of annual survival and suggest instead that sampling problems and the elusive biology of juvenile reptiles have misled researchers in this respect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-611
Number of pages5
JournalEcology
Volume89
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2008 by the Ecological Society of America. Originally published in Pike, D. A., Pizzatto, L., Pike, B. A., & Shine, R. (2008). Estimating survival rates of uncatchable animals: the myth of high juvenile mortality in reptiles. Ecology, 89(3), 607-611. https://doi.org/10.1890/06-2162.1

Keywords

  • juvenile reptiles
  • lizards
  • phylogenetic hypotheses
  • reproductive mode
  • snakes
  • Squamata
  • survival rates
  • testudines
  • turtles

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