Quantifying movement patterns for shark conservation at remote coral atolls in the Indian Ocean
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Grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) are apex predators found on many Indo-Pacific coral reefs, but little is known about their movement patterns and habitat requirements. We used acoustic telemetry to determine movements and habitat use of these sharks at the isolated Rowley Shoals atolls, 250 km off the coast of north-western Australia. We equipped 12 male and 14 female sharks ranging from 0.79 to 1.69 m in total length with transmitters that were detected by an array of 11 strategically placed receivers on two atoll reefs. Over 26,000 detections were recorded over the 325 days of receiver deployment. No sharks were observed to move between reefs. Receivers on the outer slopes of reefs provided nearly all (99%) of the detections. We found no differences in general attendance parameters due to size, sex or reef, except for maximum period of detection where larger sharks were detected over a longer period than smaller sharks. Male and female sharks were often detected at separate receivers at the outer slope habitat of one reef, suggesting sexual segregation, but this pattern did not occur at the second reef where males and females were detected at similar frequencies. We identified two patterns of daily behaviour: (1) sharks were present at the reef both day and night or (2) sharks spent more time in attendance during day than at night. Fast Fourier transforms identified 24-h cycles of attendance at the reef and a secondary peak of attendance at 12 h for most sharks, although no individuals shared the same attendance patterns. Our study provides baseline data that can be used to optimise the minimum area and habitat requirements for conservation of these apex predators.