Bomb radiocarbon dating of sandbar shark Carcharhinus plumbeus

Bomb radiocarbon and tag-recapture dating of sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus)

Allen H. Andrews, Lisa J. Natanson, Lisa A. Kerr, George H. Burgess, Gregor M. Cailliet.


The sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) was the cornerstone species of western North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico large coastal shark fisheries until 2008 when they were allocated to a research-only fishery. Despite decades of fishing on this species, important life history parameters, such as age and growth, have not been well known. Some validated age and growth information exists for sandbar shark, but more comprehensive life history information is needed. The complementary application of bomb radiocarbon and tag-recapture dating was used in this study to determine valid age-estimation criteria and longevity estimates for this species. These two methods indicated that current age interpretations based on counts of growth bands in vertebrae are accurate to 10 or 12 years. Beyond these years, we could not determine with certainty when such an underestimation of age begins; however, bomb radiocarbon and tag-recapture data indicated that large adult sharks were considerably older than the estimates derived from counts of growth bands. Three adult sandbar sharks were 20 to 26 years old based on bomb radiocarbon results and were a 5- to 11-year increase over the previous age estimates for these sharks. In support of these findings, the tag recapture data provided results that were consistent with bomb radiocarbon dating and further supported a longevity that exceeds 30 years for this species.

Fishery Bulletin 109(4): 454-465 (2011)

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