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Open Capture-Recapture Models with Heterogeneity: I. Cormack-Jolly-Seber Model




Summary In open population capture-recapture studies, it is usually assumed that similar animals (e.g., of the same sex and age group) have similar survival rates and capture probabilities. These assumptions are generally perceived to be an oversimplification, and they can lead to incorrect model selection and biased parameter estimates. Allowing for individual variability in survival and capture probabilities among apparently similar animals is now becoming possible, due to advances in closed population models and improved computing power. This article presents a flexible framework of likelihood-based models which allow for individual heterogeneity in survival and capture rates. Heterogeneity is modeled using finite mixtures, which have enough flexibility of distribution shape to accommodate a wide variety of different patterns of individual variation. The models condition on the first capture of each animal, and include as a special case the Cormack-Jolly-Seber model. Model selection is done either using Akaike's information criterion or by likelihood ratio tests, making available checks of different influences on survival rates. Bias in parameter estimates is reduced by including individual heterogeneity. Model selection and bias reduction are important in population studies and for making informed management decisions.