Abundance, habitat use and movement patterns of the shovelnose guitarfish (Rhinobatos productus) in a restored southern California estuary

Published on 24 June 2011.

Thomas J. Farrugia, Mario Espinoza and Christopher G. Lowe.


Coastal elasmobranchs such as the shovelnose guitarfish (Rhinobatos productus) seasonally use bays and estuaries for mating, pupping and feeding. However, many human-populated coastal areas have been developed, making them unavailable to coastal fish populations. The Full Tidal Basin (FTB) of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, California, USA, was completed in 2006, with the aim to restore lost estuarine habitat in southern California. Monthly abundance surveys conducted inside the FTB between June 2008 and September 2009 showed that shovelnose guitarfish were present throughout the year. Over 96% of the individuals caught were juveniles and these were most abundant in waters between 20°C and 24°C. Concurrently, 23 shovelnose guitarfish were fitted with coded acoustic transmitters and continuously tracked within the FTB for 16 months. Telemetry data showed individuals remained inside the FTB for, on average, 73.9 days (range 15–172 days), and made few movements between the FTB and the ocean. Tagged individuals disproportionately used mud habitats and waters at temperatures of 22°C, both of which are more common in the FTB than the neighbouring coastal ocean. The present study examined the structure and functionality of a restored estuary and suggests that the FTB is important habitat for a benthic predator, a promising result three years after restoration.

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(6) 648-657 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF10173

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