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

Long-term presence and movement patterns of juvenile bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, in an estuarine river system

Michelle R. Heupel A D F , Beau G. Yeiser A , Angela B. Collins B , Lori Ortega C and Colin A. Simpfendorfer A E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236, USA.

B Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 8th Avenue SE, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701, USA.

C University of South Florida, Environmental Science and Policy, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620, USA.

D School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

E Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(1) 1-10
Submitted: 30 January 2009  Accepted: 18 May 2009   Published: 29 January 2010


Elasmobranchs living in rivers and estuaries may be highly susceptible to environmental and anthropogenic changes to coastal habitats. To address this, patterns of movement of 67 juvenile bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) were examined in the Caloosahatchee River between 2003 and 2006 using an array of 25 acoustic receivers. Individuals were monitored for periods of 1–460 days with most present for periods of weeks to months. Individuals utilised the entire monitored section of the river (~27 km) and also moved upriver beyond the extent of the acoustic array. Daily activity spaces of individuals ranged from 0 to 14 km with most <5 km. Monthly mean home ranges were 0.9–5.6 km and although home-range sizes were consistent through time, location of individuals within the river changed through time. Individuals moved upstream during the day and downstream at night and this pattern persisted across years. Based on data collected from depth transmitters in 2006, individuals swam closer to the surface at night and remained in deeper water during the day, suggesting further diurnal patterns in habitat use. Long-term consistent use of this habitat by young C. leucas suggests this population is highly dependent on the Caloosahatchee River as a nursery area.

Additional keywords: acoustic monitoring, home range.


The authors thank Mote Marine Laboratory staff who helped with field efforts for this research including M. Amato, T. Wiley and J. Morris. The authors also thank the numerous volunteer student interns for their assistance during this project including: B. Fulcher, L. Abdelmessih, M. McKenzie, C. Friess, K. Kovitvongsa, A. Lemons, D. Walker and G. Kirkilas; and two anonymous referees for their comments on the text. This research was funded in part by the Mote Scientific Foundation, South Florida Water Management District and the National Shark Research Consortium (NOAA Fisheries). P. Doering and K. Haunert from the South Florida Water Management District provided information on the Caloosahatchee River system and access to water quality data. Treatment of all animals in this study was conducted under ethical guidelines and approval for procedures was granted to M. R. Heupel by the MML IACUC Committee.


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