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

Spatial and seasonal distribution patterns of juvenile and adult raggedtooth sharks (Carcharias taurus) tagged off the east coast of South Africa

M. L. Dicken A D , A. J. Booth A , M. J. Smale B and G. Cliff C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University, PO Box 94, Grahamstown, 6140, South Africa.

B Port Elizabeth Museum, PO Box 13147, Humewood, 6013, South Africa.

C Natal Sharks Board, Private Bag 2, Umhlanga Rocks, 4320, South Africa.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 58(1) 127-134
Submitted: 30 January 2006  Accepted: 23 October 2006   Published: 30 January 2007


Understanding the movement patterns of raggedtooth sharks (Carcharias taurus) is crucial in defining habitat use and evaluating the effects of exploitation and anthropogenic activities. Between 1984 and 2004, 1107 C. taurus juveniles (<1.8-m TL) and 2369 C. taurus maturing subadults and adults (>1.8-m TL) were tagged and released along the east coast of South Africa. In total, 125 C. taurus juveniles and 178 C. taurus maturing subadults and adults were recaptured, representing recapture rates of 11.2% and 7.5% respectively. The average distance travelled by juvenile sharks was 18.7 km (95% CI = 10.8–26.6 km). Juvenile sharks displayed site fidelity to summer nursery areas. The average distance travelled by maturing and adult sharks was 342 km (95% CI = 275–409 km). One female shark, however, was recaptured 1897 km from its original release site. The average rate at which pregnant sharks moved south from their gestation to pupping grounds was 2.6 km day–1 (95% CI = 2.04–3.16 km day–1). This study highlights the differences in movement patterns between C. taurus juveniles and adults and suggests philopatric behaviour in both life-history stages.

Additional keywords: life history stages, movement patterns.


This work would not have been possible without the cooperation of volunteer anglers from both the Oceanographic Research Institute and Port Elizabeth Museum cooperative tagging programs. In particular we would like to thank R. King, T. Herbst, K. Lennox, M. Spies, M. Peterson, M. Potgieter, A. Hayward, T. Radloff and T. Nazgoole. Special thanks to R. Martin and R. Smit for the development of the Port Elizabeth Museum cooperative shark-tagging program. We thank the Port Elizabeth Museum Director and staff for their support and infrastructure, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) for funding and Bayworld Centre for Research and Education for administering the study. We gratefully acknowledge the data supplied by both the Natal Sharks Board and the Oceanographic Research Institute.


Bass A. J., D’Aubrey J. D., and Kistnasamy N. (1975). Sharks of the east coast of southern Africa IV. The families Odontaspididae, Scapanorhynchidae, Isuridae, Cetorhinidae, Alopiidae, Orectolobidae and Rhiniodontidae. Investigative report 39. Oceanographic Research Institute, Durban, South Africa.

Baum, J. K. , Myers, R. A. , Kehler, D. G. , Worm, B. , Harley, S. J. , and Doherty, P. A. (2003). Collapse and conservation of shark populations in the Northwest Atlantic. Science 299, 389–392.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Branstetter S. (1990). Early life-history implications of selected carcharhinoid and lamnoid sharks of the northwest Atlantic. NOAA Technical Report 90. pp. 17–28. National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington, DC.

Branstetter, S. , and Musick, J. A. (1994). Age and growth estimates for the sand tiger in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123, 242–254.
CrossRef |

Bullen E. M., and Mann B. Q. (2004). Sedgwicks/ORI/WWF tagging programme: Spotted ragged-tooth shark (Carcharias taurus). Report 2004.1. Oceanographic Research Institute, Durban, South Africa.

Cadenat, J. (1956). Note d’ichtyologie ouest-africaine. XIV. Remarques biologiques sur le Requin-sable Carcharias (Odontaspis) taurus Rafinesque 1810. Bulletin de l’institute Français de l'Afrique Noire 18,  1249–1256.

Castro, J. I. (1993). The shark nursery of Bulls Bay, South Carolina, with a review of the shark nurseries of the southeastern coast of the United States. Environmental Biology of Fishes 38, 37–48.
CrossRef |

Compagno L. J. V. (2001). Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Vol. 2: Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Rome.)

Dicken, M. L. , Smale, M. J. , and Booth, A. J. (2006a). Shark fishing effort and catch of the raggedtooth shark (Carcharias taurus) in the South African competitive shore angling fishery. African Journal of Marine Science 28(3), 589–601.

Dicken, M. L. , Smale, M. J. , and Booth, A. J. (2006b). Spatial and seasonal distribution patterns of the raggedtooth shark (Carcharias taurus) along the coast of South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science 28(3), 603–616.

Feldheim K. A., Gruber S. H., and Ashley M. V. (2002). The breeding biology of lemon sharks at a tropical nursery lagoon. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Science, London, Series B 269, 1655–1661.

Fergusson I. K., Vacchi M., and Serena F. (2002). Note on the declining status of the sandtiger shark Carcharias taurus in the Mediterranean sea. In ‘Proceedings of the 4th meeting of the European Elasmobranch Association, 27–30 November 2002, Livorno, Italy’. (Eds M. Vacchi, G. La Mesa, F. Serena and B. Seret.) pp. 73–76. (Association Societe Francaise d’Ichtyologie (SFI): Paris.)

Francis, M. P. (1989). Exploitation rates of rig (Mustelus lenticulatus) around the South Island of New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 23, 239–245.

Henningsen A. D., Smale M. J., Gordon I., Garner R., Marin-Osorno R., and Kinnunen N. (2004). Captive breeding and sexual conflict in elasmobranchs. In ‘Elasmobranch Husbandry Manual: Proceedings of the First International Elasmobranch Husbandry Symposium 2001’. (Eds M. Smith, D. Warmolts, D. Thorney and R. Heuter.) pp. 239–250. (Ohio Biological Survey: Columbus, OH.)

Heupel, M. R. , and Hueter, R. E. (2002). Importance of prey density in relation to the movement patterns of juvenile blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) within a coastal nursery area. Marine and Freshwater Research 53, 543–550.
CrossRef |

Hilton-Taylor C. (2000) – (Compiler) 2000. IUCN red list of threatened species. The IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland, Switzerland.

Hueter R. E., Heupel M. R., Heist E. J., and Keeney D. B. (2004). Evidence of philopatry in sharks and implications for the management of shark fisheries. e-Journal of Northwest Atlantic Fishery Science V35, article 7.

Hurst, R. J. , Bagley, N. W. , McGregor, G. A. , and Francis, M. P. (1999). Movement of the New Zealand school shark, Galeorhinus galeus, from tag returns. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 33, 29–48.

Keeney, D. B. , Heupel, M. R. , Hueter, R. E. , and Heist, E. J. (2003). Genetic heterogeneity among blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus, continental nurseries along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Marine Biology 143, 1039–1046.
CrossRef |

Kohler, N. E. , Casey, J. G. , and Turner, P. A. (1998). NMFS cooperative shark tagging program, 1962–1993: an atlas of shark tag and recapture data. Marine Fisheries Review 60, 1–87.

Kohler, N. E. , and Turner, P. A. (2001). Shark tagging: a review of conventional methods and studies. Environmental Biology of Fishes 60, 191–223.
CrossRef |

Last P. R., and Stevens J. D. (1994). ‘Sharks and Rays of Australia.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne.)

Lucifora, L. O. , Menni, R. C. , and Escalante, A. H. (2002). Reproductive ecology and abundance of the sand tiger shark, Carcharius taurus, from the southwestern Atlantic. ICES Journal of Marine Science 59, 553–561.
CrossRef |

Merson, R. R. , and Pratt, H. L. (2001). Distribution, movements and growth of young sandbar sharks, Carcharhinus plumbeus, in the nursery grounds of Delaware Bay. Environmental Biology of Fishes 61, 13–24.
CrossRef |

Musick J. A., Branstetter S., and Colvocoresses J. A. (1993). Trends in shark abundance from 1974–1991 for the Chesapeake Bight region of the U.S. mid Atlantic coast. NOAA Technical Report 115. National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington, DC.

Musick, J. A. , Harbin, M. M. , Berkeley, G. H. , Burgess, G. H. , and Eklund, A. M. , et al. (2000). Marine, estuarine, and diadromous fish stocks at risk of extinction in North America (exclusive of salmonids). Fisheries 25(11), 6–30.
CrossRef |

Otway, N. M. , Bradshaw, C. J. A. , and Harcourt, R. G. (2004). Estimating the rate of quasi-extinction of the Australian grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) population using deterministic age- and stage classified models. Biological Conservation 119, 341–350.
CrossRef |

Pollard, D. A. , Smith Lincoln, M. P. , and Smith, A. K. (1996). The biology and conservation status of the grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus Rafinesque 1810) in New South Wales, Australia. Aquatic Conservation: Marine & Freshwater Ecosystems 6, 1–20.
CrossRef |

Smale, M. J. (2002). Occurrence of Carcharias taurus in nursery areas of the Eastern and Western Cape, South Africa. Marine and Freshwater Research 53, 551–556.
CrossRef |

Smith, S. E. , Au, D. W. , and Show, C. (1998). Intrinsic rebound potentials of 26 species of Pacific sharks. Marine and Freshwater Research 49, 663–678.
CrossRef |

Stevens, J. D. , West, G. J. , and McLoughlin, K. J. (2000). Movements, recapture patterns, and factors affecting the return rate of carcharhinid and other sharks tagged off northern Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 51, 127–141.
CrossRef |

Taniuchi, T. (1970). Variation in the teeth of the sand tiger shark, Odontaspis taurus (Rafinesque) taken from the East China Sea. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 17(1), 37–44.

Turpie, J. K. , Beckley, L. E. , and Katua, S. M. (2000). Biogeography and the selection of priority areas for conservation of South African coastal fishes. Biological Conservation 92, 59–72.
CrossRef |

Wallett T. S. (1973). Analysis of shark meshing returns off the Natal coast. M.S. Thesis, University of Natal, South Africa.

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (25)

View Altmetrics