Diversity in immature-shark communities along a tropical coastline

paper3 Published online on 08. January 2015

Diversity in immature-shark communities along a tropical coastline

Peter M. Yates, Michelle R. Heupel, Andrew J. Tobin, Stephen K. Moore,
Colin A. Simpfendorfer


Effective conservation and management of shark populations is complicated by our limited understanding of their spatial ecology. For example, there are scarce data on diversity in community structure and nursery function across broader geographic scales (e.g. across multiple inshore systems) and the implications of this diversity for shark populations. Accordingly, fishery-independent surveys were undertaken to investigate shark communities along ~400 km of the tropical eastern coast of Australia (18.1–20.6°S, 146.0–148.8°E). A variety of shark species were encountered, with 19 species of Carcharhiniformes contributing 99.2% of the total shark catch. Of the 1806 sharks captured, 567 were immature, including 336 young-of-the-year individuals. Immature sharks from 18 species were present; however, interspecific variation in the proportions of life-history stages was apparent. Multivariate analyses identified significant spatial heterogeneity in immature-shark communities. Results also highlighted the importance of tropical coastal habitats for numerous shark species, and indicated community-wide spatial structuring of sharks on the basis of body size rather than life-history stage. In addition to building on traditional shark-nursery paradigms, these results demonstrated that data on nursery function from restricted areas may not accurately portray patterns occurring over broader geographic scales, and this diversity may provide population-level benefits for sharks.

Marine and Freshwater Research, Online Early Version. doi: 10.1071/MF14033



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