Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Importance of prey density in relation to the movement patterns of juvenile blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) within a coastal nursery area

M. R. Heupel and R. E. Hueter

Marine and Freshwater Research 53(2) 543 - 550
Published: 22 April 2002


Previous research suggests that nursery areas provide an abundant food source as well as protection from predation for young sharks, and that these benefits are the reasons they use these areas. This study examined the abundance of prey species within a known nursery area, Terra Ceia Bay, Florida, and compared those data with the amount of time blacktip sharks spent within various geographic zones within the nursery. The most abundant prey species within the study site were pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides, pigfish, Orthopristis chrysoptera, spotfin mojarra, Eucinostomus argenteus, and silver perch, Bairdiella chrysoura. Prey species were found to be most abundant in the mid to southern portion of the nursery area, whereas sharks spent the majority of their time within the northern portion of the study site. There was no correlation between the amount of time sharks (as a whole and by individual) spent within a geographic zone and the abundance of prey species within that area. These results suggest that prey abundance is not the main factor directing the movement patterns and habitat choice of juvenile Carcharhinus limbatus within Terra Ceia Bay. Predator avoidance may be more important in the use of the nursery grounds by these young animals than prey abundance.

© CSIRO 2002

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