Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 2, pp 343–358 | Cite as

Residency patterns and movements of grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) in semi-isolated coral reef habitats

  • Mario EspinozaEmail author
  • Michelle. R. Heupel
  • Andrew J. Tobin
  • Colin A. Simpfendorfer
Original Paper


The degree of reef isolation may limit the frequency of long-range dispersals in reef-associated sharks. Therefore, understanding how the behaviour and spatial ecology of a species differs across reef habitats is essential for developing sound conservation approaches. The present study examined the residency, movement and activity space of grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) in the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR). An array of 56 acoustic receivers covering 17 semi-isolated coral reefs across 150 km was used to monitor shark movements. Forty C. amblyrhynchos were tagged with acoustic transmitters and monitored from 251 to 821 days. Most sharks were detected on a single reef; however, some individuals (4 females; 10 males) moved to up to five reefs. Residency index ranged from 0.02 to 1.0, with a mean ± SD of 0.78 ± 0.26. Mixed-effect models showed that weekly and monthly residency was mainly influenced by shark size, with little or no effect of environmental parameters. Although C. amblyrhynchos were present year-round, juvenile sharks had lower residency to their tagging reef than adults. In addition, mature females were detected less between November and mid-February, which coincides with reported parturition in the central GBR. Long-term monitoring data revealed that C. amblyrhynchos exhibited high residency to their tagging reef, and therefore, even in systems with semi-isolated reefs such as the GBR, this species may benefit from spatial management approaches at the reef level. However, behavioural differences between sexes and life-stages of C. amblyrhynchos reported in this study suggest marine reserves may provide lower protection relative to more remote and isolated coral reefs.


Activity Space Great Barrier Reef Reef Habitat Shark Species Reef Shark 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank students and staff from the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture for field support, especially J. Matley, E. Lédée, F. Faria and S. Moore. We would also like to thank Dr. Rhondda Jones for statistical advice and the crew from the RV James Kirby for their time and support during fieldwork. We are grateful to José Fabricio Vargas for the scientific drawing used in the manuscript and helpful comments from three anonymous reviewers. This project was funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (Tropical Ecosystems Hub Project 6.1). MRH was supported by a Future Fellowship (#FT100101004) from the Australian Research Council, and ME was supported by the PADI Foundation, Australian Endeavour and AIMS@JCU Scholarships.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 364 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 142 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (PDF 173 kb)
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Supplementary material 4 (PDF 162 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario Espinoza
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michelle. R. Heupel
    • 1
    • 3
  • Andrew J. Tobin
    • 1
  • Colin A. Simpfendorfer
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture and College of Marine and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.AIMS@JCU, Australian Institute of Marine Science, College of Marine and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia

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