A spatial capture-recapture model for group-living species

Ecology. 2022 Oct;103(10):e3576. doi: 10.1002/ecy.3576. Epub 2021 Dec 2.


Group living in species can have complex consequences for individuals, populations, and ecosystems. Therefore, estimating group density and size is often essential for understanding population dynamics, interspecific interactions, and conservation needs of group-living species. Spatial capture-recapture (SCR) has been used to model both individual and group density in group-living species, but modeling either individual-level or group-level detection results in different biases due to common characteristics of group-living species, such as highly cohesive movement or variation in group size. Furthermore, no SCR method currently estimates group density, individual density, and group size jointly. Using clustered point processes, we developed a cluster SCR model to estimate group density, individual density, and group size. We compared the model to standard SCR models using both a simulation study and a data set of detections of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), a group-living carnivore, on camera traps in northern Botswana. We then tested the model's performance under various scenarios of group movement in a separate simulation study. We found that the cluster SCR model outperformed a standard group-level SCR model when fitted to data generated with varying group sizes, and mostly recovered previous estimates of wild dog group density, individual density, and group size. We also found that the cluster SCR model performs better as individuals' movements become more correlated with their groups' movements. The cluster SCR model offers opportunities to investigate ecological hypotheses relating group size to population dynamics while accounting for cohesive movement behaviors in group-living species.

Keywords: African wild dog; abundance; point process model; sociality; spatial capture-recapture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Ecosystem*
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics