Nearshore movement ecology of a medium-bodied shark, the creek whaler
Published on 27. April 2015
Nearshore movement ecology of a medium-bodied shark, the creek whaler Carcharhinus fitzroyensis
Samantha EM Munroe, Colin A Simpfendorfer, James Moloney, Michelle R Heupel
The movement and habitat use patterns of medium-bodied nearshore sharks are poorly understood. However, these species face some of the highest levels of exposure to anthropogenic development. The habitat and space use strategies species exhibit affect their role within communities and how they respond to environmental change. The present study used passive acoustic telemetry to evaluate the residency, space use, and habitat use patterns of the creek whaler Carcharhinus fitzroyensis in a nearshore embayment in Queensland, Australia.
Individuals were monitored for approximately 18 months. Half of the monitored population were highly resident to the bay. In contrast, several individuals spent less than 2 weeks in the bay, suggesting that broader movements may occur in a portion of the population. Size had no effect on residency. Activity space size varied between months and time of day but was also not affected by animal size. All C. fitzroyensis spent the majority of time in seagrass habitat (70%) and deep water (>5 m) mud substrate (20%). Shallow mudflat, sandy inshore, and reef habitats were rarely used (7%). Although the sample size of immature individuals was relatively small, results indicated immature and mature C. fitzroyensis shared space and habitats.
Overall, C. fitzroyensis used a combination of nearshore movement patterns typically exhibited by small- and large-bodied species. The movement patterns exhibited by C. fitzroyensis suggest that this species has a moderately high degree of seagrass habitat specialisation. Seagrass habitat is typically highly productive and may be an important foraging habitat for this species. Given the consistent use of seagrass habitat, C. fitzroyensis are likely vulnerable to population decline as a result of seagrass habitat loss. Future research should continue to investigate the unique movements of medium-bodied sharks.
Animal Biotelemetry 2015, 3:10, doi:10.1186/s40317-015-0026-y