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

Validated age, growth and reproductive biology of Carcharhinus melanopterus, a widely distributed and exploited reef shark

Andrew Chin A C , Colin Simpfendorfer A , Andrew Tobin A and Michelle Heupel A B

A Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

B Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville, Qld 4810, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: andrew.chin@jcu.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 64(10) 965-975 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13017
Submitted: 19 January 2013  Accepted: 5 April 2013   Published: 19 July 2013

Abstract

Inadequate life-history information can compromise management of shark populations. The present study examined the life history of blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) from north-eastern Australia with predictions that they would show life-history patterns similar to those of other reef sharks species. Age and growth estimates were derived from vertebrae and five growth models. Males were 543–1390 mm total length (LST) and females were 514–1600 mm LST. Longevity was 10 years (males) and 15 years (females). Chemical marking confirmed annual band pair deposition but indicated probable age underestimation of large individuals. The logistic model was preferred (second-order Akaike information criterion (AICc) weight 0.7536), with growth parameter estimates of length at birth (L0) = 617 mm LST; asymptotic length (L) = 1585 mm LST; k (from logistic model) = 0.251 year–1. Males matured at 4.2 years (1050 mm LST) and females at 8.5 years (1335 mm LST), although further verification is needed. Mating and parturition occurred in summer and autumn, females having three or four pups per litter. Data were inconclusive in determining reproductive periodicity. These data contribute to the species management and conservation and suggest that the species may be sensitive to fishing pressure and habitat loss. The study also demonstrated potential complications in using vertebrae to estimate age and growth of chondrichthyan fishes.

Additional keywords: age validation, calcein, Great Barrier Reef, life history.


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