Using pedigree reconstruction to estimate population size: genotypes are more than individually unique marks

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Estimates of population size are critical for conservation and management, but accurate estimates are difficult to obtain for many species. Noninvasive genetic methods are increasingly used to estimate population size, particularly in elusive species such as large carnivores, which are difficult to count by most other methods. In most such studies, genotypes are treated simply as unique individual identifiers. Here, we develop a new estimator of population size based on pedigree reconstruction. The estimator accounts for individuals that were directly sampled, individuals that were not sampled but whose genotype could be inferred by pedigree reconstruction, and individuals that were not detected by either of these methods. Monte Carlo simulations show that the population estimate is unbiased and precise if sampling is of sufficient intensity and duration. Simulations also identified sampling conditions that can cause the method to overestimate or underestimate true population size; we present and discuss methods to correct these potential biases. The method detected 2–21% more individuals than were directly sampled across a broad range of simulated sampling schemes. Genotypes are more than unique identifiers, and the information about relationships in a set of genotypes can improve estimates of population size.



Ecology, Genetics, Macroecology


Creel, Scott, and Elias Rosenblatt. “Using Pedigree Reconstruction to Estimate Population Size: Genotypes Are More Than Individually Unique Marks.� Ecology and Evolution 3, no. 5 (April 8, 2013): 1294–1304. doi:10.1002/ece3.538.
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