Influence of intra-specific predator-prey interactions on juvenile lemon sharks

Published online on 20. January 2012.

Deep danger: intra-specific predation risk influences habitat use and aggregation formation of juvenile lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris

Tristan L. Guttridge, Samuel H. Gruber, Bryan R. Franks, Steven T. Kessel, Katie S. Gledhill, Jen Uphill, Jens Krause, David W. Sims


Non-consumptive or risk effects imposed by predators can influence prey behaviour over different spatio-temporal scales. Prey vulnerability to predation can also be dependent on abiotic conditions, such as tidal height. We conducted direct field observations of juvenile lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris in a tidally influenced mangrove-inlet. We also used acoustic tracking to determine the movement patterns of juvenile lemon sharks and their predators (sub-adult lemon sharks) across the tidal cycle. Results showed that greater numbers of juvenile lemon sharks used the mangrove-inlet for longer time periods at deeper and warmer high tide depths. This coincided with an increased presence of potential predators (sub-adult lemon sharks) in the surrounding areas. Furthermore, in accordance with body-size dependent anti-predatory investment, smaller juvenile lemon sharks visited the mangrove inlet more often, spent longer there and left latest on average. Our acoustic tracking data also revealed a tidally-influenced pattern, with both juvenile and sub-adult lemon sharks detected at locations inshore over the high tide and offshore during the low tide. We concluded that the mangrove lake served as a ‘refuge’ for juvenile lemon sharks over the high tide, providing safe habitat when inshore areas become accessible to large predators, such as sub-adult lemon sharks. We suggest that these decisions are updated through ontogeny and also with daily fluctuations in abiotic factors, such as water depth. This study provides evidence for how intra-specific predator−prey interactions in a top predator species influence juvenile habitat selection, with potential implications for population structure and regulation.

Marine Ecology Progress Series, 445:279-291



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