Estimating age structure in insect populations using the captive cohort method

James Carey (June 24, 2013)

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My objective is to describe the theoretical foundation, analytical framework and empirical requirements for the use of the death distribution of live-captured insects of unknown age to estimate age structure in their population. I will start with a brief overview of several high tech methods currently used to estimate insect age (and thus population age structure), most of which are costly and all of which are limited. I will then introduce the demographic concept my colleagues and I developed as an alternative to the high-tech approach. Referred to as the captive cohort methods, we show that the death distribution of live-captured individuals of unknown age can be used to: (1) determine the exact age structure of hypothetical stationary populations (i.e. life table identity); ii) estimate the age structure of wild populations using a simple model and reference life tables; and iii) estimate quantitative changes in population mean age and qualitative changes in the age extremes (young and old). I will illustrate the utility of this approach from the results of field studies on the Mediterranean fruit flies populations in Greece, and end with a discussion of the broader implications of this method in both basic and applied ecology.