age-specific mortality hypothesis; Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora; Costa Rica; elasticity analysis; live-bearer; Poeciliidae; population growth rate; population matrix modeling; predation.
Life-history theory predicts that populations experiencing different levels of extrinsic mortality will evolve divergent reproductive strategies. Previous work in the live bearing fish Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora shows that individuals from populations that occur with piscivorous fish mature earlier and at smaller sizes and have more and smaller offspring than fish from populations without predators. However, until now, there have been no data to demonstrate that differences in mortality rates actually exist between predator and predator free sites. Here we present the results of a serial mark-recapture field study designed to estimate mortality rates in natural populations of B. rhabodophora from Costa Rica. We found that fish from predator environments experience higher overall mortality rates and proportionally higher adult mortality rates than fish from predator-free environments. We then ask what impact differences in mortality rates have on B. rhabdophora population dynamics. Using a population matrix modeling approach, we found that B. rhabdophora that co-occur with predators have population growth rates similar to those without predators and both have confidence intervals that span lambda = 1.0. However, elasticity analysis revealed that the most important life-history stages for population growth in predator environments are found early in life and include growth through early ontogenetic stages and survival as small adults; in contrast, the most important life-history stages for population growth in predator-free environments occur late in life, including survival once large juvenile and adult stages are reached. Hence, we demonstrate two important links between predation and population demography, one ecological due to the direct impacts of predator-induced mortality and the other expressed through predator-mediated reproductive adaptation.