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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Dec 22;272(1581):2619-25.

Predictors of early survival in Soay sheep: cohort-, maternal- and individual-level variation.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London Department of Biological Sciences Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, Berks SL5 7PY, UK.


A demographic understanding of population dynamics requires an appreciation of the processes influencing survival--a demographic rate influenced by parameters varying at the individual, maternal and cohort level. There have been few attempts to partition the variance in demography contributed by each of these parameter types. Here, we use data from a feral population of Soay sheep (Ovis aries), from the island of St Kilda, to explore the relative importance of these parameter types on early survival. We demonstrate that the importance of variation occurring at the level of the individual, and maternally, far outweighs that occurring at the cohort level. The most important variables within the individual and maternal levels were birth weight and maternal age class, respectively. This work underlines the importance of using individual based models in ecological demography and we, therefore, caution against studies that focus solely on population processes.

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