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Habitat use and movement patterns of bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas determined using pop-up satellite archival tags

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Habitat use, movement and residency of bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas were determined using satellite pop-up archival transmitting (PAT) tags throughout coastal areas in the U.S., Gulf of Mexico and waters off the south-east U.S. From 2005 to 2007, 18 fish (mean size = 164 cm fork length, LF) were tagged over all seasons. Fish retained tags for up to 85 days (median = 30 days). Based on geolocation data from initial tagging location to pop-off location, C. leucas generally travelled c. 5–6 km day−1 and travelled an average of 143·6 km. Overall, mean proportions of time at depth revealed C. leucas spent the majority of their time in waters <20 m. They exhibited significant differences among depths but were not found at a particular depth regardless of diurnal period. Most fish occupied temperatures c. 32° C with individuals found mostly between 26 and 33° C. Geolocation data for C. leucas were generally poor and varied considerably but tracks for two individuals revealed long distance movements. One fish travelled from the south-east coast of the U.S. to coastal Texas near Galveston while another moved up the east coast of the U.S. to South Carolina. Data on C. leucas movements indicated that they are found primarily in shallower waters and tend to remain in the same location over long periods. While some individuals made large-scale movements over open ocean areas, the results emphasize the importance of the coastal zone for this species as potential essential habitat, particularly in areas of high freshwater inflow.
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Keywords: geolocation; habitat utilization; residency

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 3500 Delwood Beach Road, Panama City, FL 32408, U.S.A. 2: Florida Program for Shark Research, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117800, Gainesville, FL 32611, U.S.A. 3: Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2010-08-01

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