Joint estimation of growth and survival from mark–recapture data to improve estimates of senescence in wild populations

Beth A. Reinke, Luke Hoekstra, Anne M. Bronikowski, Fredric J. Janzen, David Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Understanding age-dependent patterns of survival is fundamental to predicting population dynamics, understanding selective pressures, and estimating rates of senescence. However, quantifying age-specific survival in wild populations poses significant logistical and statistical challenges. Recent work has helped to alleviate these constraints by demonstrating that age-specific survival can be estimated using mark–recapture data even when age is unknown for all or some individuals. However, previous approaches do not incorporate auxiliary information that can improve age estimates of individuals. We introduce a survival estimator that combines a von Bertalanffy growth model, age-specific hazard functions, and a Cormack-Jolly-Seber mark–recapture model into a single hierarchical framework. This approach allows us to obtain information about age and its uncertainty based on size and growth for individuals of unknown age when estimating age-specific survival. Using both simulated and real-world data for two painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) populations, we demonstrate that this additional information substantially reduces the bias of age-specific hazard rates, which allows for the testing of hypotheses related to aging. Estimating patterns of senescence is just one practical application of jointly estimating survival and growth; other applications include obtaining better estimates of the timing of recruitment and improved understanding of life-history trade-offs between growth and survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02877
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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