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Am Nat. 2003 Nov;162(5):558-73. Epub 2003 Nov 6.

Life-history models of extinction: a test with island spiders.

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  • 1Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


This study analyzes extinction patterns for two species of orb spiders monitored annually on 77 islands over a continuous 20-yr period. One species, Argiope argentata, has large populations sometimes crashing quickly to extinction and a much weaker relation of extinction likelihood to population size than does the other species, Metepeira datona. Demographic models were built for both species and matched against observations. Differences between the species in life-history traits-estimated with measurements from the field-together with incorporation of demographic stochasticity, a population ceiling, and environmental stochasticity, were necessary to fit the observed extinction curves. As predicted from life-history patterns, long-term population growth rates (and hence predicted extinction probabilities) are relatively very sensitive to values of juvenile survivorship. Models are also sensitive to variation in the population ceiling and environmental noise, which tend to act in a complementary manner. A simple model with no age structure was able to fit the data on large initial population sizes but not on small initial population sizes, showing that life cycle characteristics interact with the various sources of stochasticity and hence have to be taken into account to produce a precise model of the extinction process.

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