Catastrophic events and recovery from low densities in populations of otariids: Implications for disk of extinction

Leah R. Gerber, Ray Hilborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Two key factors in a population's risk of extinction are major population declines induced by natural or anthropogenic events (catastrophes) and whether the population's rate of growth increases or decreases at very low abundance levels. These two elements should be included in any population viability analysis (PVA), but estimates of the frequency and intensity of catastrophic events and data on the dynamics of low population densities are difficult to obtain. We examined the literature on population dynamics of otariids (fur seals and sea lions), to determine how frequently populations are subjected to major population declines, and to what extent depleted populations recover from low population size. We present frequency distributions for percentage declines for otariid life-stages (pup, juvenile, adult female and male), and describe eight examples of events leading to a population decline of 50% or greater among otariids. We found that numerous otariid populations have been reduced to very low densities by exploitation (low enough to be thought extinct) and have recovered to levels where they are no longer at risk of extinction. This suggests that the reduction in population rate of increase at low densities in otariid populations may not be strong.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-150
Number of pages20
JournalMammal Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Catastrophes
  • Depensation
  • Exploitation
  • Otariids
  • Population decline
  • Population rate of increase
  • Population viability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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