Conservation implications of a long-term decline in body condition of the Brothers Island tuatara (Sphenodon guntheri)

J.M. Hoare, S. Pledger, S.N. Keall, N.J. Nelson, Nicki Mitchell, C.H. Daugherty

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    Understanding the factors that drive the dynamics of remnant populations of long-lived species presents a unique challenge for conservation management. The long-lived Brothers Island tuatara Sphenodon guntheri is represented by one natural, self-sustaining population on 4-ha North Brother Island, New Zealand, and two small, translocated populations. The North Brother Island population was almost driven to extinction by extreme habitat modification and collecting in the late 19th century. Analysis of a long-term (1957-2001) dataset, following the population's recovery, reveals a significant decline in tuatara body condition over time, which is more pronounced in females. Declining body condition, coupled with very low reproductive output, may be symptomatic of a density-dependent response to elevated population size exacerbated by resource limitation. Sex-specific effects that disadvantage females could compromise this small population, particularly as it exhibits a male-biased sex ratio. We recommend removal of infrequently used structures and habitat restoration to alleviate intense resource competition. Population-level manipulation should be considered if future monitoring indicates an increasingly male-biased sex ratio and continued decline of female body condition.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)456-462
    JournalAnimal Conservation
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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