, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 337-345

Utilisation of a tropical bay as a nursery area by sharks of the families Carcharhinidae and Sphyrnidae

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Synopsis

At least eight species of sharks of the families Carcharhinidae and Sphyrnidae use Cleveland Bay in northern Australia as a communal nursery area.Carcharhinus dussumieri, C. fitzroyensis, C. limbatus andC. tilstoni use the bay as a seasonal primary nursery, with juveniles occurring in it for only a few months each year immediately after birth. Alternatively,Carcharhinus sorrah, Rhizoprionodon acutus andR. taylori use the bay as a year-round primary and secondary nursery, with juveniles remaining in it up to the size at maturity. AdultR. taylori also persist in the bay, a behavioural pattern possibly explained by their small maximum size. While present immediately after birth the type of utilisation pattern displayed bySphyrna lewini could not be clarified in this study. Although diets of these species in the bay are similar, there is probably little direct competition for food due to the highly productive habitats in the bay supporting an abundance of food resources. The highest numbers of juveniles occur when prey species are the most abundant, and when temporal separation of some seasonally-occurring species of sharks in effect.