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1.  Generalized Drivers in the Mammalian Endangerment Process 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90292.
An important challenge for conservation today is to understand the endangerment process and identify any generalized patterns in how threats occur and aggregate across taxa. Here we use a global database describing main current external threats in mammals to evaluate the prevalence of distinct threatening processes, primarily of anthropogenic origin, and to identify generalized drivers of extinction and their association with vulnerability status and intrinsic species' traits. We detect several primary threat combinations that are generally associated with distinct species. In particular, large and widely distributed mammals are affected by combinations of direct exploitation and threats associated with increasing landscape modification that go from logging to intense human land-use. Meanwhile, small, narrowly distributed species are affected by intensifying levels of landscape modification but are not directly exploited. In general more vulnerable species are affected by a greater number of threats, suggesting increased extinction risk is associated with the accumulation of external threats. Overall, our findings show that endangerment in mammals is strongly associated with increasing habitat loss and degradation caused by human land-use intensification. For large and widely distributed mammals there is the additional risk of being hunted.
PMCID: PMC3936011  PMID: 24587315
2.  Correction: Weak Polygyny in California Sea Lions and the Potential for Alternative Mating Tactics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):10.1371/annotation/03fdf5e5-b986-49c7-aa43-202bdedd3a36.
PMCID: PMC3342333
3.  Weak Polygyny in California Sea Lions and the Potential for Alternative Mating Tactics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33654.
Female aggregation and male territoriality are considered to be hallmarks of polygynous mating systems. The development of genetic parentage assignment has called into question the accuracy of behavioral traits in predicting true mating systems. In this study we use 14 microsatellite markers to explore the mating system of one of the most behaviorally polygynous species, the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus). We sampled a total of 158 female-pup pairs and 99 territorial males across two breeding rookeries (San Jorge and Los Islotes) in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Fathers could be identified for 30% of pups sampled at San Jorge across three breeding seasons and 15% of sampled pups at Los Islotes across two breeding seasons. Analysis of paternal relatedness between the pups for which no fathers were identified (sampled over four breeding seasons at San Jorge and two at Los Islotes) revealed that few pups were likely to share a father. Thirty-one percent of the sampled males on San Jorge and 15% of the sampled males on Los Islotes were assigned at least one paternity. With one exception, no male was identified as the father of more than two pups. Furthermore, at Los Islotes rookery there were significantly fewer pups assigned paternity than expected given the pool of sampled males (p<0.0001). Overall, we found considerably lower variation in male reproductive success than expected in a species that exhibits behavior associated with strongly polygynous mating. Low variation in male reproductive success may result from heightened mobility among receptive females in the Gulf of California, which reduces the ability of males to monopolize groups of females. Our results raise important questions regarding the adaptive role of territoriality and the potential for alternative mating tactics in this species.
PMCID: PMC3303858  PMID: 22432039
4.  Human Disturbance Influences Reproductive Success and Growth Rate in California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17686.
The environment is currently undergoing changes at both global (e.g., climate change) and local (e.g., tourism, pollution, habitat modification) scales that have the capacity to affect the viability of animal and plant populations. Many of these changes, such as human disturbance, have an anthropogenic origin and therefore may be mitigated by management action. To do so requires an understanding of the impact of human activities and changing environmental conditions on population dynamics. We investigated the influence of human activity on important life history parameters (reproductive rate, and body condition, and growth rate of neonate pups) for California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Increased human presence was associated with lower reproductive rates, which translated into reduced long-term population growth rates and suggested that human activities are a disturbance that could lead to population declines. We also observed higher body growth rates in pups with increased exposure to humans. Increased growth rates in pups may reflect a density dependent response to declining reproductive rates (e.g., decreased competition for resources). Our results highlight the potentially complex changes in life history parameters that may result from human disturbance, and their implication for population dynamics. We recommend careful monitoring of human activities in the Gulf of California and emphasize the importance of management strategies that explicitly consider the potential impact of human activities such as ecotourism on vertebrate populations.
PMCID: PMC3059216  PMID: 21436887
5.  The Cost of Male Aggression and Polygyny in California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12230.
In polygynous mating systems, males often increase their fecundity via aggressive defense of mates and/or resources necessary for successful mating. Here we show that both male and female reproductive behavior during the breeding season (June–August) affect female fecundity, a vital rate that is an important determinant of population growth rate and viability. By using 4 years of data on behavior and demography of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), we found that male behavior and spatial dynamics—aggression and territory size—are significantly related to female fecundity. Higher rates of male aggression and larger territory sizes were associated with lower estimates of female fecundity within the same year. Female aggression was significantly and positively related to fecundity both within the same year as the behavior was measured and in the following year. These results indicate that while male aggression and defense of territories may increase male fecundity, such interactions may cause a reduction in the overall population growth rate by lowering female fecundity. Females may attempt to offset male-related reductions in female fecundity by increasing their own aggression—perhaps to defend pups from incidental injury or mortality. Thus in polygynous mating systems, male aggression may increase male fitness at the cost of female fitness and overall population viability.
PMCID: PMC2923196  PMID: 20808931

Results 1-5 (5)