Effects of Including Misidentified Sharks in Life History Analyses
Published on 08. April 2016
Effects of Including Misidentified Sharks in Life History Analyses: A Case Study on the Grey Reef Shark Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos from Papua New Guinea
Jonathan J. Smart , Andrew Chin, Leontine Baje, Madeline E. Green,
Sharon A. Appleyard, Andrew J. Tobin, Colin A. Simpfendorfer, William T. White
Fisheries observer programs are used around the world to collect crucial information and samples that inform fisheries management. However, observer error may misidentify similar-looking shark species. This raises questions about the level of error that species misidentifications could introduce to estimates of species’ life history parameters. This study addressed these questions using the Grey Reef Shark Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos as a case study. Observer misidentification rates were quantified by validating species identifications using diagnostic photographs taken on board supplemented with DNA barcoding. Length-at-age and maturity ogive analyses were then estimated and compared with and without the misidentified individuals. Vertebrae were retained from a total of 155 sharks identified by observers as C. amblyrhynchos. However, 22 (14%) of these were sharks were misidentified by the observers and were subsequently re-identified based on photographs and/or DNA barcoding. Of the 22 individuals misidentified as C. amblyrhynchos, 16 (73%) were detected using photographs and a further 6 via genetic validation. If misidentified individuals had been included, substantial error would have been introduced to both the length-at-age and the maturity estimates. Thus validating the species identification, increased the accuracy of estimated life history parameters for C. amblyrhynchos. From the corrected sample a multi-model inference approach was used to estimate growth for C. amblyrhynchos using three candidate models. The model averaged length-at-age parameters for C. amblyrhynchos with the sexes combined were = 159 cm TL and = 72 cm TL. Females mature at a greater length (l50 = 136 cm TL) and older age (A50 = 9.1 years) than males (l50 = 123 cm TL; A50 = 5.9 years). The inclusion of techniques to reduce misidentification in observer programs will improve the results of life history studies and ultimately improve management through the use of more accurate data for assessments.
PLoS ONE 11(4): e0153116. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153116