Fitting models of multiple-hypotheses to partial population data: investigating the causes of cycles in red grouse

L New, Jason Matthiopoulos, S Redpath, Stephen Terrence Buckland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


There are two postulated causes for the observed periodic fluctuations (cycles) in red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus). The first involves interaction with the parasitic nematode Trichostrongylus tenuis. The second invokes delayed regulation through the effect of male aggressiveness on territoriality. Empirical evidence exists to support both hypotheses, and each hypothesis has been modeled deterministically. However, little effort has gone into looking at the combined effects of the two mechanisms or formally fitting the corresponding models to field data. Here we present a model for red grouse dynamics that includes both parasites and territoriality. To explore the single and combined hypotheses, we specify three versions of this model and fit them to data using Bayesian state-space modeling, a method that allows statistical inference to be performed on mechanistic models such as ours. Output from the three models is then examined to determine their goodness of fit and the biological plausibility of the parameter values required by each to fit the population data. While all three models are capable of emulating the observed cyclic dynamics, only the model including both aggression and parasites does so under consistently realistic parameter values, providing theoretical support for the idea that both mechanisms shape red grouse cycles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-412
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


  • Aaggressiveness
  • Bayesian statistics
  • Cyclic population dynamics
  • Lagopus lagopus scoticus
  • state-space modeling
  • Trichostrongylus tenuis
  • Kin-facilitation hypothesis
  • Host-parasite system
  • Territorial behavior
  • Dynamics
  • Stability
  • Transmission
  • Recruitment


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