Seasonal changes in basking shark vertical space use in the north-east Atlantic

Published on
18. September 2019

Seasonal changes in basking shark vertical space use in the north-east Atlantic

P. D. Doherty, J. M. Baxter, B. J. Godley, R. T. Graham, G. Hall, J. Hall, L. A. Hawkes, S. M. Henderson, L. Johnson, C. Speedie, M. J. Witt


Mobile marine species can exhibit vast movements both horizontally and vertically. Spatial analysis of vertical movements may help improve an understanding of the processes that influence space use. Previously, vertical space use of basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) in the north-east Atlantic described movements largely within waters of the continental shelf during summer and autumn months, with few records of detailed vertical behaviour during winter. We use archival satellite telemetry data from 32 basking sharks (12 females, 6 males, and 14 of unknown sex measuring 4–5 m (n = 6), 5–6 m (n = 10), 6–7 m (n = 7), 7–8 m (n = 8), and 8–9 m (n = 1) estimated total length) tracked over 4 years (2012–2015). The satellite tags provided depth and temperature data for a cumulative 4489 days (mean 140 ± 97 days per shark, range 10–292 days) to describe vertical space use and thermal range of basking sharks in the north-east Atlantic. Basking sharks exhibit seasonality in vertical space use, revealing repeated ‘yo-yo’ movement behaviour with periods of occupancy at depths greater than 1000 m in late winter/early spring. Describing seasonal vertical space use in marine megavertebrates can increase knowledge of movements throughout their environment including physiological and morphological constraints to movement, nutrient transfer, and overlap with anthropogenic threats to inform future conservation strategies.

Mar Biol (2019) 166: 129. DOI 10.1007/s00227-019-3565-6


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