Population regulation and demography in a harvested freshwater crayfish from Madagascar
Jones JPG., Coulson T.
Despite advances in statistical techniques for investigating population dynamics based on mark-recapture data, the majority of our understanding about demography and regulation comes from relatively few taxa. Most proposed generalisations about the association between demography and variation in population size are based on data from vertebrates, there are few sufficiently detailed invertebrate studies to examine whether these generalisations are widely supported. The population biology of freshwater invertebrates is especially poorly known. We present a large-scale mark-recapture study of an endemic freshwater crayfish from Madagascar (Astacoides granulimanus). Variation in density, caused by difference in fishing pressure due to local taboos, allowed us to investigate density-dependent regulation. We found evidence of density dependence in fecundity operating through the proportion of reproductive females by size but no significant evidence of density dependence in growth. Using a prospective analysis based on the elasticities from a size-structured matrix model, we found that both recruitment rates and survival rates of large individuals were strongly associated with deterministic population growth - a result that differs from generalisations drawn from vertebrate studies. A central assumption in mark-recapture studies is that handling does not affect mortality. By treating the number of times an individual was captured as an individual covariate, easily done using the freeware program MARK, we were able to test for, and take account of, handling-induced mortality. Our results show interesting similarities, and important differences, to generalisations based on vertebrate studies and emphasise the importance of population studies on poorly known taxa. Copyright © Oikos 2006.