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Population dynamics in a Danish metapopulation of spadefoot toads Pelobates fuscus

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If an amphibian species has a high degree of site fidelity to its natal pond, subpopulations do not mix, and this may have implications: the subpopulations may get different because of genetic drift, and their status may be affected due to stochastic events. During a four-year period (1994–1997), demographic parameters of a Danish metapopulation consisting of ca 1000 adult Pelobates fuscus in five subpopulations were investigated with the aim of quantifying exchange of individuals in subpopulations and potential differences in demographic parameters, and to clarify population regulating mechanisms. This was done through the use of drift fences surrounding the five breeding ponds, individual marking (PIT-tagging) and weight recordings of the adult females. Metamorphs were recorded when leaving the pond. There was no significant differences between ponds in sex ratio, eggs laid per female, fraction of females breeding and survival of eggs to froglets and of adults. However, there was a significant difference in juvenile survival (52% in one pond and 31% in the others). Sex ratio was 1.70 males:1 female. Mean number of eggs laid per female in the pond was 1762. The number of eggs laid was age-specific, fecundity peaking at age five. Larval survival rate was density dependent: decreasing in an overcompensating fashion at high densities. Exchange rate between ponds was low; 1.09% of the marked and recaptured adult population was found to change pond during the study period. The low exchange rate was confirmed in a simple translocation experiment. This population shows features of a source-sink metapopulation where the identity of the source pond changes due to succession. It is presumably regulated either in the larval stage by density dependent mechanisms (in the subpopulations with many adults) or in the adult stage by density independent mechanisms (in the subpopulations with few adults).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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