Seasonal abundance, philopatry and demographic structure of Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) assemblages in the north-east Exuma Sound, The Bahamas
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- Brooks, E.J., Sims, D.W., Danylchuk, A.J. et al. Mar Biol (2013) 160: 2535. doi:10.1007/s00227-013-2246-0
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The Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi), an abundant coral-reef-associated apex predator, is one of the most economically and ecologically important, yet least studied species of large shark in the greater Caribbean region. The relative abundance and population structure of C. perezi off Cape Eleuthera, The Bahamas, was surveyed by standardised longline surveys from May 2008 to October 2011, which resulted in the capture of 331 sharks. Abundance peaked in the summer and was lowest during the winter. Females were 1.6 times more abundant than males and the assemblage was dominated by immature female sharks (45.5 %). The abundance of mature male and female sharks peaked a month apart in June and August, respectively. All 331 sharks were tagged and released with 15.4 % being recaptured after periods at liberty between 5 and 1,159 days (Mean = 333.4 ± 42.7 SE). The mean distance between tagging and recapture was 1.77 km for recaptures in excess of 6 months, indicating seasonally stratified philopatry in this species. C. perezi inhabiting Bahamian waters have developed complex habitat use patterns that are both spatiotemporally and demographically segregated, most probably in response to the large and diverse habitat mosaic available on the Bahamas Banks compared to contemporary study sites. This study represents an important step in understanding the spatiotemporal population structure of C. perezi and illustrates the potential for studies examining behavioural plasticity in response to environmental variation and anthropogenic disturbance.