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

Distribution, size and sex composition, reproductive biology and diet of sharks from Northern Australia

JD Stevens and KJ McLoughlin

Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 42(2) 151 - 199
Published: 1991


The distribution, size composition, sex ratio, reproductive biology and diet of 17 species of shark from the families Triakidae, Hemigaleidae and Carcharhinidae from northern Australia were examined. In most of these species the sex ratio of the embryos is 1 : 1, whereas in the post-partum populations there were significantly more males than females. The results indicate four broad reproductive strategies among these sharks. In most species reproduction was distinctly seasonal with individual females giving birth each Austral summer (annual cycle) after a gestation period of 9-12 months. A second group had a very similar cycle except that individual females gave birth every second year (biennial cycle). A third group had an annual cycle but breeding was continuous throughout the year, these were mostly small bottom-associated sharks. One species had a seasonal cycle but gave birth twice each year (biannual cycle) after a 6-month gestation. The average size at birth varied from 27 to 75 cm and the average litter size varied from 2 to 34. The size at birth was about 40% of the size at maturity, which in turn was about 70% of the maximum size. Diets ranged from omnivorous to highly selective. Fish was an important component of the diet in all but one species. There was evidence of partitioning of food resources among sympatric, morphologically similar, sharks.

© CSIRO 1991

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