, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 349-360

A nursery Area for Sharks and Rays in Northeastern Brazil

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Synopsis

Elasmobranch nurseries are habitats where females give birth to their young and juveniles spend their early life history. Hypotheses concerning nurseries suggest that these provide the young a better source of food and protection against predation, however the degree of exposure to predatory risk in nursery areas vary. According to Branstetter hypothesis, slow growing species are either born at relatively large sizes or use protected nursery grounds, whereas faster growing species tend to rely more on growth rates than others factors. Primary nurseries are habitats where parturition occurs and in which the young live for a short time and secondary nurseries are habitats in which juveniles are found after leaving the primary nursery and before reaching maturity. Rhizoprionodon porosus and Carcharhinus acronotus use coastal waters off Caiçara do Norte as both primary and secondary nurseries, while Carcharhinus limbatus makes use of the area as a seasonal primary nursery in late spring and early summer. C. falciformis apparently makes use of the end of inner continental shelf and the outer continental shelf as a primary nursery. Gymnura micrura, Rhinobatos percellens and Narcine brasiliensis makes use of coastal and turbid waters of region as both primary and secondary nurseries throughout the year, while Dasyatis guttata utilizes the area as a primary nursery. Aetobatus narinari and Rhinoptera bonasus, although caught in lesser number, appear to use the region as both primary and secondary nurseries and only primary nursery respectively. Dasyatis marianae (endemic from Northeastern Brazil) may use coastal sandbanks as a primary nursery, while Dasyatis Americana apparently exploits waters about 10 – 20 m in depth with rocky reef substrate only as secondary nursery. There was a measurable degree of temporal and spatial separation among sharks’ species, which may effectively create separate ecological niches, whereas among rays, with the exception of the stingray D. marianae, a spatial and temporal overlaps were observed. The Branstetter’s hypothesis was supported.