Shark nursery areas: Concepts, definition, characterization and assumptions

  • Heupel M
  • Carlson J
  • Simpfendorfer C
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Abstract

The concept of elasmobranch species using nursery areas was introduced in the early 1900s and has been an accepted aspect of shark biology and behavior for several decades. Despite several descriptions of how shark species use nursery areas and what types of regions nurseries may be found in, no explicit definition of what constitutes a shark nursery area has been presented. Here we evaluate the assumptions of the current shark nursery paradigm in light of available data. Based on examination of these assumptions and available methods of quantifying and accurately describing shark nursery areas, a new more quantitative definition of shark nursery areas is proposed. This def- inition requires 3 criteria to be met for an area to be identified as a nursery: (1) sharks are more com- monly encountered in the area than other areas; (2) sharks have a tendency to remain or return for extended periods; and (3) the area or habitat is repeatedly used across years. These criteria make the definition of shark nursery areas more compatible with those for other aquatic species. The improved definition of this concept will provide more valuable information for fisheries managers and shark biologists.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Definition
  • Habitat
  • Nursery area
  • Shark

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Authors

  • Michelle R. Heupel

  • John K. Carlson

  • Colin A. Simpfendorfer

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