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Habitat and space use of an abundant nearshore shark, Rhizoprionodon taylori

S. E. M. Munroe A B D , C. A. Simpfendorfer B and M. R. Heupel B C

A AIMS@JCU, Australian Institute of Marine Science and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.
B Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.
C Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: samantha.munroe@my.jcu.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13272
Submitted: 16 October 2013  Accepted: 18 January 2014   Published online: 7 July 2014


 
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Abstract

Shark resource-use strategies affect how they will respond to changes within their environment and, as such, may be important to consider in conservation and management. Movement data on sharks that use nearshore areas is particularly valuable because these habitats are highly dynamic. The present study used passive acoustic telemetry to examine the space-use, habitat-selection and habitat-specialisation patterns of the Australian sharpnose shark, Rhizoprionodon taylori, in a nearshore area. Habitat selectivity and specialisation were assessed across five benthic habitat types, including outer bay, seagrass, reef, sandy inshore and intertidal mudflats. The majority of R. taylori sharks were present for short periods of time, ranging from 1 to 112 days (mean ± s.e. = 16.9 ± 4.9). Activity-space analysis indicated that R. taylori roamed widely, but monthly activity-space size was consistent among individuals and through time. Both the population and individuals displayed wide habitat niches, indicating that the species may be resilient to environmental change. However, R. taylori consistently selected for seagrass over other habitats, potentially for feeding. Therefore, declines in seagrass availability may reduce R. taylori presence in nearshore areas and may be relevant to spatial management of this species.

Additional keywords: kernel-utilisation distributions, residency, small-bodied sharks.


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