Ecological drivers of shark distributions along a tropical coastline

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Abstract

As coastal species experience increasing anthropogenic pressures there is a growing need to characterise the ecological drivers of their abundance and habitat use, and understand how they may respond to changes in their environment. Accordingly, fishery-independent surveys were undertaken to investigate shark abundance along approximately 400 km of the tropical east coast of Australia. Generalised linear models were used to identify ecological drivers of the abundance of immature blacktip Carcharhinus tilstoni/Carcharhinus limbatus, pigeye Carcharhinus amboinensis, and scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini sharks. Results indicated general and species-specific patterns in abundance that were characterised by a range of abiotic and biotic variables. Relationships with turbidity and salinity were similar across multiple species, highlighting the importance of these variables in the functioning of communal shark nurseries. In particular, turbid environments were especially important for all species at typical oceanic salinities. Mangrove proximity, depth, and water temperature were also important; however, their influence varied between species. Ecological drivers may promote spatial diversity in habitat use along environmentally heterogeneous coastlines and may therefore have important implications for population resilience.

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Yates, P. M., Heupel, M. R., Tobin, A. J., & Simpfendorfer, C. A. (2015). Ecological drivers of shark distributions along a tropical coastline. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0121346

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