When capturing and marking of individuals is possible, the application of newly developed capture-recapture models can remove several sources of bias in the estimation of population parameters such as local abundance and sex ratio. For example, observation of distorted sex ratios in counts or captures can reflect either different abundances of the sexes or different sex-specific capture probabilities, and capture-recapture models can help distinguish between these two possibilities. Robust design models and a model selection procedure based on information-theoretic methods were applied to study the local population structure of the endemic Sardinian chalk hill blue butterfly, Polyommatus coridon gennargenti. Seasonal variations of abundance, plus daily and weather-related variations of active populations of males and females were investigated. Evidence was found of protandry and male pioneering of the breeding space. Temporary emigration probability, which describes the proportion of the population not exposed to capture (e.g. absent from the study area) during the sampling process, was estimated, differed between sexes, and was related to temperature, a factor known to influence animal activity. The correlation between temporary emigration and average daily temperature suggested interpreting temporary emigration as inactivity of animals. Robust design models were used successfully to provide a detailed description of the population structure and activity in this butterfly and are recommended for studies of local abundance and animal activity in the field.
Additional publication details
Temporal variability of local abundance, sex ratio and activity in the Sardinian chalk hill blue butterfly