Likelihood-based genetic mark-recapture estimates when genotype samples are incomplete and contain typing errors

Theor Popul Biol. 2011 Nov;80(3):185-96. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2011.06.006. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


Genotypes produced from samples collected non-invasively in harsh field conditions often lack the full complement of data from the selected microsatellite loci. The application to genetic mark-recapture methodology in wildlife species can therefore be prone to misidentifications leading to both 'true non-recaptures' being falsely accepted as recaptures (Type I errors) and 'true recaptures' being undetected (Type II errors). Here we present a new likelihood method that allows every pairwise genotype comparison to be evaluated independently. We apply this method to determine the total number of recaptures by estimating and optimising the balance between Type I errors and Type II errors. We show through simulation that the standard error of recapture estimates can be minimised through our algorithms. Interestingly, the precision of our recapture estimates actually improved when we included individuals with missing genotypes, as this increased the number of pairwise comparisons potentially uncovering more recaptures. Simulations suggest that the method is tolerant to per locus error rates of up to 5% per locus and can theoretically work in datasets with as little as 60% of loci genotyped. Our methods can be implemented in datasets where standard mismatch analyses fail to distinguish recaptures. Finally, we show that by assigning a low Type I error rate to our matching algorithms we can generate a dataset of individuals of known capture histories that is suitable for the downstream analysis with traditional mark-recapture methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Genotype*
  • Likelihood Functions*
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics