Lundervold, M., Langvatn, R. & Milner-Gulland, E.J. 2003: A comparison of age estimation methods for the saiga antelope Saiga tatarica. - Wildl. Biol. 9: 219-227.
Age estimation is particularly crucial for the conservation of the saiga antelope Saiga tatarica, but modern laboratory methods for aging have not previously been applied to this species. There is an urgent need for evaluation of the techniques that could be used for age estimation in order that long-term ecological data sets can be correctly interpreted and conservation advice given. We evaluated the repeatability, practical feasibility and comparability of three techniques for age estimation of saiga antelopes; the tooth sectioning technique (TS), the tooth eruption and wear technique (TEW), and a visual aging technique routinely used in field studies. We found that TS and TEW gave repeatable results, and agreed well. The visual method underestimated the age of males compared to laboratory methods. It assigned animals consistently to the age class of at least one year old, but less consistently to the age class less than one year old. Although studies of known-age animals are needed to evaluate precision and accuracy of these methods, we suggest that either TS or TEW would be suitable for aging saiga antelopes, with the choice being determined by practicalities such as the availability of the necessary expertise and equipment.
Key words: aging, Kazakhstan, saiga, tooth eruption, tooth sectioning, tooth wear, ungulates
Monica Lundervold, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rolf Langvatn, Foundation for Nature Research (NINA), Tungasletta 2, N-7485 Trondheim, Norway - e-mail: email@example.com
E.J. Milner-Gulland, Department of Environmental Science and Technology, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Corresponding author: E.J. Milner-Gulland
Received 21 October 2002, accepted 28 January 2003
Associate Editor: Johan T. du Toit