Visible Implant Alphanumeric tags as an alternative to toe-clipping for marking amphibians - A case study

Geoffrey W. Heard, Michael P. Scroggie, Brian Malone

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    31 Citations (Scopus)


    The removal of toes in unique combinations ('toe-clipping') has historically been the most popular technique for individually marking amphibians. However, recent studies have questioned the utility and ethics of this technique, and provided impetus for research on the efficacy of alternative methods. In this study, the efficacy of Visible Implant Alphanumeric (VIA) tags for marking juvenile growling grass frogs (Litoria raniformis) was assessed with reference to the fundamental assumptions of the mark-recapture approach. Three questions were investigated: (1) What is the probability of tag loss? (2) What is the probability of tag misidentification, and does it vary between frogs or observers, or with observer experience? and (3) To what extent does tagging influence survival or growth? Laboratory and field trials demonstrated that the probability of tag loss for juvenile L. raniformis was ∼0.07 (95% CI: 0.03-0.13) when tags where implanted on the dorsolateral region of the thorax, eight times lower than that estimated for tags implanted on the thigh (mean 0.59; 95% CI: 0.29-0.86). Tags were rarely misidentified by naïve observers (mean probability of tag misidentification <0.01), but tag read accuracy varied amongst observers. In the laboratory, tagging did not adversely influence survival or growth of L. raniformis during the 12-week study period. Given that modification of the techniques used here may eliminate tag loss, and that variation in tag read accuracy between observers may be easily avoided, it is concluded that VIA tags represent a promising alternative to toe-clipping for marking L. raniformis and other amphibians.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)747-759
    Number of pages13
    JournalWildlife Research
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2008


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