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Rain, rats and pythons: Climate-driven population dynamics of predators and prey in tropical Australia

Madsen, Thomas LU ; Ujvari, Beata LU ; Shine, R and Olsson, M (2006) In Austral Ecology 31(1). p.30-37
Abstract
All natural populations fluctuate in abundance and age structure through time; understanding why they do so is a critical step towards their effective management and conservation. However, the long-term data sets needed for such an understanding are rarely available, especially for tropical organisms. A 17-year capture-mark–recapture study yielded detailed information on the demography of water pythons (Liasis fuscus) and their main prey, the dusky rat (Rattus colletti), on the Adelaide River flood plain in tropical Australia. The link between annual rainfall patterns and rat demography was highly non-linear. Rat numbers were low during years with low and high rainfall at the end of the wet season (April). Numbers of both predators and... (More)
All natural populations fluctuate in abundance and age structure through time; understanding why they do so is a critical step towards their effective management and conservation. However, the long-term data sets needed for such an understanding are rarely available, especially for tropical organisms. A 17-year capture-mark–recapture study yielded detailed information on the demography of water pythons (Liasis fuscus) and their main prey, the dusky rat (Rattus colletti), on the Adelaide River flood plain in tropical Australia. The link between annual rainfall patterns and rat demography was highly non-linear. Rat numbers were low during years with low and high rainfall at the end of the wet season (April). Numbers of both predators and prey fluctuated considerably among years. Annual fluctuations in rat numbers generated a corresponding variation in rates of female python reproduction, python body condition and survival. Although variation in recruitment, survival and prey abundance all had a significant impact on annual fluctuations in python numbers, our analyses suggest that recruitment constituted the main determinant in driving the population dynamics of these large tropical predators. In combination with our other studies on this system, the data show that population dynamics of the water python population is ultimately driven by annual variation in rainfall, mediated via shifts in prey availability. The water pythons and the dusky rats of the Adelaide River flood plain thus demonstrate an unusually clear and direct link between an abiotic factor (rainfall) and predator–prey population dynamics. (Less)
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author
; ; and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Austral Ecology
volume
31
issue
1
pages
30 - 37
publisher
Wiley-Blackwell
external identifiers
  • wos:000234576100004
  • scopus:33644825421
ISSN
1442-9985
DOI
10.1111/j.1442-9993.2006.01540.x
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
85b72379-3f86-4240-9ef3-abe778a1a342 (old id 155541)
date added to LUP
2016-04-01 17:09:47
date last changed
2021-06-30 01:30:00
@article{85b72379-3f86-4240-9ef3-abe778a1a342,
  abstract     = {All natural populations fluctuate in abundance and age structure through time; understanding why they do so is a critical step towards their effective management and conservation. However, the long-term data sets needed for such an understanding are rarely available, especially for tropical organisms. A 17-year capture-mark–recapture study yielded detailed information on the demography of water pythons (Liasis fuscus) and their main prey, the dusky rat (Rattus colletti), on the Adelaide River flood plain in tropical Australia. The link between annual rainfall patterns and rat demography was highly non-linear. Rat numbers were low during years with low and high rainfall at the end of the wet season (April). Numbers of both predators and prey fluctuated considerably among years. Annual fluctuations in rat numbers generated a corresponding variation in rates of female python reproduction, python body condition and survival. Although variation in recruitment, survival and prey abundance all had a significant impact on annual fluctuations in python numbers, our analyses suggest that recruitment constituted the main determinant in driving the population dynamics of these large tropical predators. In combination with our other studies on this system, the data show that population dynamics of the water python population is ultimately driven by annual variation in rainfall, mediated via shifts in prey availability. The water pythons and the dusky rats of the Adelaide River flood plain thus demonstrate an unusually clear and direct link between an abiotic factor (rainfall) and predator–prey population dynamics.},
  author       = {Madsen, Thomas and Ujvari, Beata and Shine, R and Olsson, M},
  issn         = {1442-9985},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {30--37},
  publisher    = {Wiley-Blackwell},
  series       = {Austral Ecology},
  title        = {Rain, rats and pythons: Climate-driven population dynamics of predators and prey in tropical Australia},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-9993.2006.01540.x},
  doi          = {10.1111/j.1442-9993.2006.01540.x},
  volume       = {31},
  year         = {2006},
}