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Exceptionally high apparent adult survival in three tropical species of plovers in Madagascar

Cite this dataset

Jones, William et al. (2021). Exceptionally high apparent adult survival in three tropical species of plovers in Madagascar [Dataset]. Dryad.


Adult survival is a key component of population dynamics and understanding variation in and the drivers of adult survival rates and longevity is critical for ecological and evolutionary studies, as well as for conservation biology and practice. Tropical species of landbirds are often selected to have higher adult survival due to high nest predation rates, but it is unclear if the same patterns occur in other avian lineages with different life history strategies. Here, we investigate adult survival of three sympatrically breeding species of shorebirds in south-west Madagascar: the endemic and endangered Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus, and two more widely distributed African species: the White-fronted Plover C. marginatus and the Kittlitz’s Plover C. pecuarius. Using mark-recapture data from 1843 individuals breeding at an intensely monitored saltmarsh over a 13-year period, we estimated annual rates of apparent survival (φ) corrected for encounter probability. Adult apparent survival rates were high for all three species (mean ± SE): Madagascar (φ = 0.899 ± 0.010) and White-fronted Plovers (φ = 0.923 ± 0.008). Kittlitz’s Plovers showed a difference between the first (φ1 = 0.719 ± 0.026) and subsequent transitions (φ2+ = 0.892 ± 0.014), suggesting that transient breeders are common in this species. For birds first captured as adults, these survival estimates translate to life-expectancies of 9.72 (± 1.11) years in Kittlitz’s plovers, 9.36 (± 0.98) years in Madagascar Plovers and 12.48 (± 1.32) in White-fronted Plovers. We hypothesise that long lifespan could be an adaptation arising from the unique climatic pressures on the island of Madagascar that would otherwise lead to reduced fitness. However, long lifespans may not sufficiently compensate for a reduction in breeding opportunities due to possible climatic disruption in the future. Consequently, at least two of these plover species seem vulnerable to ongoing habitat destruction and changing climate cycles.


This survival matrix contains the resighting/recapture information for each of the 1843 adult plovers monitored in this study. Birds were captured and unique colour code combinations attached to monitor them throughout their lives.

Usage notes

Survival matrix of three species of plover from Madagascar. Individuals are listed on each row. Each column represents a year of the study. If an individual was detected in a given year (either by resightings or by recaptures) then that is marked as a "1"; if that individual was not detected it is denoted as "0". The first column indicates the individual ID and species, the second column indicates the sex of the individual (where known) and the remaining columns are the detection matrix.