Fine-scale movement strategies of a non-obligate ram ventilator

Published on
10. February 2020

Active acoustic telemetry tracking and tri-axial accelerometers reveal fine-scale movement strategies of a non-obligate ram ventilator

Meese E.N., Lowe C.G.



California horn sharks (Heterodontus francisci) are nocturnally active, non-obligate ram ventilating sharks in rocky reef habitats that play an important ecological role in regulating invertebrate communities. We predicted horn sharks would use an area restricted search (ARS) movement strategy to locate dense resource patches while minimizing energetic costs of travel and nighttime activity. As ectotherms, we predicted environmental temperature would play a significant role in driving movement and activity patterns.


Continuous active acoustic tracking methods and acceleration data loggers were used to quantify the diel fine-scale spatial movements and activity patterns of horn sharks. First passage time was used to identify the scale and locations of patches indicative of ARS. Activity was assessed using overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA) as a proxy for energy expenditure. Behavior within a patch was characterized into three activity patterns: resting, episodic burst activity, and moderate, consistent activity.


After resting in daytime shelters, individuals travelled to multiple reefs throughout the night, traversing through depths of 2–112 m and temperatures of 10.0–23.8 °C. All sharks exhibited area restricted search patch use and arrived at their first patch approximately 3.4 ± 2.2 h (mean ± SD) after sunset. Sharks exhibited moderate, consistent activity in 54% of the patches used, episodic burst activity in 33%, and few (13%) were identified as resting at night. ODBA peaked while sharks were swimming through relatively deeper (~ 30 m), colder channels when traversing from one patch to the next. There was no consistent pattern between ODBA and temperature.


We provide one of the largest fine-scale, high-resolution paired data sets for an elasmobranch movement ecology study. Horn sharks exhibited ARS movement patterns for various activity patterns. Individuals likely travel to reefs known to have profitable and predictable patches, potentially tolerating less suitable environmental temperatures. We demonstrate how gathering high-resolution information on the movement decisions of a community resident enhances knowledge of community structure and overall ecosystem function.

Mov Ecol 8, 8 (2020), DOI: 10.1186/s40462-020-0191-3


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