Authors: Bennett Hardy; Erin L Muths; David N Koons
Date: 2021-12 | Outlet: Journal of Animal Ecology
In Focus: Valenzuela-Sanchez, A., Azat, C., Cunningham, A. A., Delgado, S., Bacigalupe, L. D., Beltrand, J., Serrano, J. M., Sentenac, H., Haddow, N., Toledo, V., Schmidt, B. R., & Cayuela, H. (2022). Interpopulation differences in male reproductive effort drive the population dynamics of a host exposed to an emerging fungal pathogen. Journal of Animal Ecology, XX, XXXX-XXXX. Understanding the nuances of population persistence in the face of a stressor can help predict extinction risk and guide conservation actions. However, the exact mechanisms driving population stability may not always be known. In this paper, Valenzuela-Sanchez et al. (2022) integrate long-term mark-recapture data, focal measurements of reproductive effort, a population matrix model, and inferences on life history variation to reveal differences in demographic response to disease in a susceptible frog species (Rhinoderma darwinii). Valenzuela-Sanchez et al. found that demographic compensation via compensatory recruitment explained the positive population growth rate in their high disease prevalence population whereas the low disease prevalence population did not compensate and thus had decreasing population growth. Compensatory recruitment was likely due to the high probability of males brooding, and the high number of brooded larvae in the high prevalence population compared to low prevalence and disease-free populations. Valenzuela-Sanchez et al. also document faster generation times in the high prevalence population, which may indicate a faster life history that may be contributing to the population’s ability to compensate for reduced survival. Lastly, the authors find a positive relationship between disease prevalence and the number of juveniles in a given population that suggest a possible prevalence threshold when increased reproductive effort may occur. Altogether, their study provides novel support for increased reproductive effort as the pathway for compensatory recruitment leading to increasing population growth despite strong negative effects of disease on adult survival. Their results also caution the overgeneralization of the effects of stressors (e.g., disease) on population dynamics, where context-dependent responses may differ among host populations of a given species.