Residency and movement patterns of an apex predatory shark at the Galapagos Marine Reserve

Published on 22. August 2017

Residency and movement patterns of an apex predatory shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) at the Galapagos Marine Reserve

David Acuña-Marrero, Adam N. H. Smith, Neil Hammerschlag, Alex Hearn, Marti J. Anderson, Hannah Calich, Matthew D. M. Pawley, Chris Fischer, Pelayo Salinas-de-León


The potential effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs) as a conservation tool for large sharks has been questioned due to the limited spatial extent of most MPAs in contrast to the complex life history and high mobility of many sharks. Here we evaluated the movement dynamics of a highly migratory apex predatory shark (tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier) at the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). Using data from satellite tracking passive acoustic telemetry, and stereo baited remote underwater video, we estimated residency, activity spaces, site fidelity, distributional abundances and migration patterns from the GMR and in relation to nesting beaches of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), a seasonally abundant and predictable prey source for large tiger sharks. Tiger sharks exhibited a high degree of philopatry, with 93% of the total satellite-tracked time across all individuals occurring within the GMR. Large sharks (> 200 cm TL) concentrated their movements in front of the two most important green sea turtle-nesting beaches in the GMR, visiting them on a daily basis during nocturnal hours. In contrast, small sharks (< 200 cm TL) rarely visited turtle-nesting areas and displayed diurnal presence at a third location where only immature sharks were found. Small and some large individuals remained in the three study areas even outside of the turtle-nesting season. Only two sharks were satellite-tracked outside of the GMR, and following long-distance migrations, both individuals returned to turtle-nesting beaches at the subsequent turtle-nesting season. The spatial patterns of residency and site fidelity of tiger sharks suggest that the presence of a predictable source of prey and suitable habitats might reduce the spatial extent of this large shark that is highly migratory in other parts of its range. This highly philopatric behaviour enhances the potential effectiveness of the GMR for their protection.

PLoS ONE 12(8): e0183669. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183669



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