Species with partial migration, where a portion of a population migrates and the other remains residential, provide the opportunity to evaluate conditions for migration and test mechanisms influencing migratory decisions. We conducted a five-year study of two populations of red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens), composed of individuals that either remain as residents in the breeding pond over the winter or migrate to the terrestrial habitat. We used multistate mark-recapture methods to (1) test for differences in survival probability between migrants and residents, (2) determine if migrants breed every year or skip opportunities for reproduction, and (3) estimate the frequency of individuals switching migratory tactic. We used estimates of life history parameters from the natural populations in combination with previous experimental work to evaluate processes maintaining partial migration at the population level and to assess mechanisms influencing the decision to migrate. Based on capture-recapture information on over 3000 individuals, we found that newts can switch migratory tactics over their lifetime. We conclude that migrants and residents coexist through conditional asymmetries, with residents having higher fitness and inferior individuals adopting the migrant tactic. We found that newts are more likely to switch from residency to migrating than the reverse and males were more likely to remain as residents. Migration differences between the sexes are likely driven by reproduction benefits of residency for males and high energetic costs of breeding resulting in lower breeding frequencies for females. Environmental conditions also influence partial migration within a population; we found support for density-dependent processes in the pond strongly influencing the probability of migrating. Our work illustrates how migration can be influenced by a complex range of individual and environmental factors and enhances our understanding of the conditions necessary for the evolution and maintenance of partial migration within populations.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2011 The Ecological Society of America. This article first appeared in Ecology 92, no. 6 (June 2011): 1236-1246. doi:10.1890/11-0133.1.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.