Close-Kin Mark-Recapture

Mark-recapture (MR) methods are commonly used to study wildlife populations. Taking advantage of modern genetics one can generalize from “recapture of self” to “recapture of closely-related kin”. Abundance and other demographic parameters of adults can then be estimated using, if necessary, only samples from dead animals (live-release is optional). This greatly widens the scope of MR, e.g. to commercial fisheries where large-scale tagging is impractical, and enhances the power of conventional MR studies where live release and tissue sampling is possible. We give explicit formulae for kinship (i.e., recapture) probabilities in general and specific cases. These yield a pseudo-likelihood based on pairwise comparisons of individuals in the samples. It is shown that the pseudo-likelihood approximates the full likelihood under sparse sampling of large populations. Experimental design is addressed via the principle of maximizing the Fisher information for parameters of interest. Finally, we discuss challenges related to kinship determination from genetic data, focusing on current limitations and future possibilities.

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