Modeling Demographic Processes In Marked Populations

Volume 3 of the series Environmental and Ecological Statistics pp 173-197

Estimating Latent Time of Maturation and Survival Costs of Reproduction in Continuous Time from Capture–Recapture Data

  • Torbjørn ErgonAffiliated withCentre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biology (now at Program for Integrative Biology), University of Oslo Email author 
  • , Nigel G. Yoccoz
  • , James D. Nichols

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In many species, age or time of maturation and survival costs of reproduction may vary substantially within and among populations. We present a capture-mark-recapture model to estimate the latent individual trait distribution of time of maturation (or other irreversible transitions) as well as survival differences associated with the two states (representing costs of reproduction). Maturation can take place at any point in continuous time, and mortality hazard rates for each reproductive state may vary according to continuous functions over time. Although we explicitly model individual heterogeneity in age/time of maturation, we make the simplifying assumption that death hazard rates do not vary among individuals within groups of animals. However, the estimates of the maturation distribution are fairly robust against individual heterogeneity in survival as long as there is no individual level correlation between mortality hazards and latent time of maturation. We apply the model to biweekly capture–recapture data of overwintering field voles (Microtus agrestis) in cyclically fluctuating populations to estimate time of maturation and survival costs of reproduction. Results show that onset of seasonal reproduction is particularly late and survival costs of reproduction are particularly large in declining populations.


Capture-mark-recapture Latent traits Life-history theory Maximum likelihood Multi-state/multi-strata Continuous time Hazard rates Heterogeneity Maturation Cost of reproduction Disease infection dynamics