Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (1004.82 kB)

Population Viability and Resource Competition on North Brother Island: Conservation Implications for Tuatara (Sphenodon Punctatus) and Duvaucel's Gecko (Hoplodactylus Duvaucelii)

Download (1004.82 kB)
posted on 2021-11-10, 08:42 authored by Wilson, Joanna

Population viability for small, isolated populations is determined by many factors, particularly demographic stochasticity. Coexistence of communities is promoted through resource partitioning, particularly if species share similar niche requirements. Demographic characteristics, long-term trends and patterns of partitioning were investigated for two reptile species: tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) and Duvaucel's gecko (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii), using mark recapture techniques on North Brother Island, New Zealand. Capture time and location were recorded as well as snout-vent length, mass and sex of individuals. Adult population size, sex ratio, survival and recapture probability for both species were estimated. Intervention will be needed to prevent population collapse for tuatara, as the population is male-biased (3.24 males: 1 female), with sub-adults exhibiting a stronger bias (4.1 males: 1 female). The total population size is estimated at 390-437 adults, with high adult survival (95%). The Duvaucel's gecko population is stable enough to be harvested for translocation, as the population was estimated at 583-677 adults, with an even sex ratio. Adult survival was high (92%) and longevity is at least 43-50 years. Patterns in partitioning suggest tuatara are excluding Duvaucel's gecko as tuatara occupy vegetated areas and few animals were caught at the same time in the same place as a member of the other species (~10%). Long-term site fidelity appears to occur in both species as the majority of animals were captured previously within 10m (tuatara) or 15m (Duvaucel's gecko) of their 2008 location, and travelled less than 2m per year on average. Tuatara show an overall decline in body condition since 1957, which is more rapid in females, and may be related to intraspecific interactions and density-dependent effects. Gecko body condition is not declining, suggesting no negative effects at the population level are occurring as a result of competitive exclusion. This study indicates that characteristics that have implications for population viability have the capacity to differ, even for species with similar niche requirements occupying the same habitat, and supports the considerable value of long-term monitoring.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Conservation Biology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Nelson, Nicky