, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 121-136
Date: 28 Jul 2011

Movements, reproductive seasonality, and fisheries interactions in the whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) from community-contributed photographs

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Abstract

Despite being a common apex-level predator on coral reefs throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, surprisingly little is known about whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) movements and biology. This study used photo-identification from community-contributed photographs to reveal patterns in movements, reproductive biology, and fisheries interactions in this species that have not been previously revealed through more traditional methods. At least 178 individual sharks were identified, and 26 movements were observed. These included movement distances of up to 26.4 km, movement rates of up to 3.27 km/day (9.8 km in 3 days), and movements that required the transit of a 140 m deep channel. Other animals showed high philopatry, being re-sighted at the same locality on multiple occasions (up to 13 sightings for one individual) over periods of up to 7 years. Females showed higher philopatry than males and were more likely than males to be found at shallow (<10 m depth) localities throughout the year. The proportion of male sightings at shallow localities was significantly higher in April and May than other months of the year, possibly due to males coming into the shallows to mate with females. A peak in sightings of late-term females followed by an abrupt decline suggests that pupping season is May into early June, and two females were observed pregnant in consecutive years despite evidence that the gestation period is approximately 1 year for this species. Nine percent of animals carried fishing tackle or exhibited jaw injuries associated with fishery interactions, with multiple individuals found dead after being hooked by fishers.