Movement patterns of silvertip sharks on coral reefs

paper8Published on 29. May 2015

Movement patterns of silvertip sharks (Carcharhinus albimarginatus ) on coral reefs

Mario Espinoza, Michelle. R. Heupel, Andrew J. Tobin, Colin A. Simpfendorfer


Understanding how sharks use coral reefs is essential for assessing risk of exposure to fisheries, habitat loss, and climate change. Despite a wide Indo-Pacific distribution, little is known about the spatial ecology of silvertip sharks (Carcharhinus albimarginatus), compromising the ability to effectively manage their populations. We examined the residency and movements of silvertip sharks in the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR). An array of 56 VR2W acoustic receivers was used to monitor shark movements on 17 semi-isolated reefs. Twenty-seven individuals tagged with acoustic transmitters were monitored from 70 to 731 d. Residency index to the study site ranged from 0.05 to 0.97, with a mean residency (±SD) of 0.57 ± 0.26, but most individuals were detected at or near their tagging reef. Clear seasonal patterns were apparent, with fewer individuals detected between September and February. A large proportion of the tagged population (>71 %) moved regularly between reefs. Silvertip sharks were detected less during daytime and exhibited a strong diel pattern in depth use, which may be a strategy for optimizing energetic budgets and foraging opportunities. This study provides the first detailed examination of the spatial ecology and behavior of silvertip sharks on coral reefs. Silvertip sharks remained resident at coral reef habitats over long periods, but our results also suggest this species may have more complex movement patterns and use larger areas of the GBR than common reef shark species. Our findings highlight the need to further understand the movement ecology of silvertip sharks at different spatial and temporal scales, which is critical for developing effective management approaches.

Coral Reefs, May 2015, DOI 10.1007/s00338-015-1312-0



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