To catch or to sight? A comparison of demographic parameter estimates obtained from mark-recapture and mark-resight models

K. A. Lee, C. Huveneers, O. Gimenez, V. Peddemors, R. G. Harcourt

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    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Accurate assessments of population parameters, such as survival and abundance, are critical for effective wildlife conservation. In order for wildlife managers to undertake long-term monitoring of populations, the data collection must be as cost-effective as possible. Two demographic modelling techniques commonly used are mark-recapture and mark-resight. Mark-resight can be used in conjunction with biotelemetry methods and offers a more cost effective alternative to the traditional mark-recapture models. However, there has been no empirical comparison of the demographic parameters obtained from the two modelling techniques. This study used photographs of natural markings to individually identify wobbegong sharks (Orectolobus maculatus) sighted during underwater surveys over a 2 year period, during eight distinct sampling periods, and analysed with Pollock's robust design mark-recapture models. These estimates were then compared, using z tests, with Poisson-lognormal mark-resight models that used resightings of sharks previously tagged with telemetry transmitters, and the telemetry data to calculate the number of marked animals present in each sampling period. Sharks were categorised into four groups according to their sex and age-class (adult/juvenile). The results indicated that there was a high degree of transience in the population, with 62 % of sharks only being sighted in one sampling period. Based on normalized Akaike weights, there was no single 'best' model for either type of modelling technique and model averaging was used to determine the demographic estimates. Both models showed higher abundance of wobbegongs in the austral spring and summer seasons, however, the models produced statistically different results for five of the eight sampling periods. The mark-recapture model estimated apparent survival between 78 and 95 %, whereas the mark-resight models estimated it between 48 and 97 %. Crucially, there was no statistical difference between the survival estimates from corresponding sex/age-class. The temporary emigration parameters differed substantially between the model types. The mark-recapture model showed support for Markovian movement, whereas the mark-resight supported random emigration. The timing of the tagging events likely biased the abundance and temporary emigration parameters estimated by mark-resight models and must be taken into consideration when designing a mark-resight study. Despite this, this study shows that robust demographic estimates, that are comparable to labour intensive mark-recapture estimates, can still be obtained using mark-resight methods. Given the substantial increase in biotelemetry studies of medium and large sized vertebrates, mark-resight models may play an important future role in estimating demographic parameters.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2781-2800
    Number of pages20
    JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


    • abundance
    • acoustic telemetry
    • Orectolobus maculatus
    • photoidentification
    • Pollock’s robust design
    • poisson-lognormal mark-resight
    • survival
    • temporary emigration


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