Estuarine nursery areas for young bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas

Published on July 18, 2011.

Estuarine nursery areas provide a low-mortality environment for young bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas.

Michelle R. Heupel and Colin A. Simpfendorfer


Defining the role and impact of mortality within aquatic populations is often difficult. As a result, we still lack a clear understanding of the level of mortality in natural populations and the role habitat may play in survival. We used long-term acoustic monitoring of neonate bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas in a south Florida estuary to determine mortality rates within this population. Estimates of natural, fishing and total mortality varied among the years examined, but not significantly, suggesting similar survival among years with the majority of individuals (77%) surviving beyond 18 mo. Compared with other juvenile sharks, mortality rates of C. leucas were low. The results indicate that the use of mesohaline estuarine habitats by C. leucas may provide benefits that are not present in more marine habitats where their counterparts reside. Use of estuarine regions may be a successful ecological strategy for improving survival because of reduced predation and competition.

Marine Ecology Progress Series Volume 433.



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