Some studies have described a negative effect of toe clipping on return rates of marked anurans, but the return rate is limited in that it does not account for heterogeneity of capture probabilities. We used open population mark-recapture models to estimate both apparent survival (??) and the recapture probability (p) of two treefrog species individually marked by clipping 2-4 toes. We used information-theoretic model selection to examine the effect of toe clipping on survival while accounting for variation in capture probability. The model selection results indicate strong support for an effect of toe clipping on survival of Green Treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) and only limited support for an effect of toe clipping on capture probability. We estimate there was a mean absolute decrease in survival of 5.02% and 11.16% for Green Treefrogs with three and four toes removed, respectively, compared to individuals with just two toes removed. Results for Squirrel Treefrogs (Hyla squirella) indicate little support for an effect of toe clipping on survival but may indicate some support for a negative effect on capture probability. We believe that the return rate alone should not be used to examine survival of marked animals because constant capture probability must be assumed, and our examples demonstrate how capture probability may vary over time and among groups. Mark-recapture models provide a method for estimating the effect of toe clipping on anuran survival in situations where unique marks are applied. Copyright 2008 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.
Additional publication details
Modeling the effect of toe clipping on treefrog survival: Beyond the return rate