Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 77, Issue 3–4, pp 337–353 | Cite as

Investigations of Δ 14C, δ 13C, and δ 15N in vertebrae of white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) from the eastern North Pacific Ocean

  • Lisa A. KerrEmail author
  • Allen H. Andrews
  • Gregor M. Cailliet
  • Thomas A. Brown
  • Kenneth H. Coale


The white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, has a complex life history that is characterized by large scale movements and a highly variable diet. Estimates of age and growth for the white shark from the eastern North Pacific Ocean indicate they have a slow growth rate and a relatively high longevity. Age, growth, and longevity estimates useful for stock assessment and fishery models, however, require some form of validation. By counting vertebral growth band pairs, ages can be estimated, but because not all sharks deposit annual growth bands and many are not easily discernable, it is necessary to validate growth band periodicity with an independent method. Radiocarbon (14C) age validation uses the discrete 14C signal produced from thermonuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s that is retained in skeletal structures as a time-specific marker. Growth band pairs in vertebrae, estimated as annual and spanning the 1930s to 1990s, were analyzed for Δ14C and stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes (δ13C and δ15N). The aim of this study was to evaluate the utility of 14C age validation for a wide-ranging species with a complex life history and to use stable isotope measurements in vertebrae as a means of resolving complexity introduced into the 14C chronology by ontogenetic shifts in diet and habitat. Stable isotopes provided useful trophic position information; however, validation of age estimates was confounded by what may have been some combination of the dietary source of carbon to the vertebrae, large-scale movement patterns, and steep 14C gradients with depth in the eastern North Pacific Ocean.


Radiocarbon Stable isotope ratios Age validation Shark vertebrae 



We thank the Los Angeles County Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Sea World San Diego, and Leonard Compagno (Shark Research Center, Iziko-Museums of Cape Town South African Museum, Cape Town, South Africa) for providing vertebral samples. We acknowledge Steve Campana, John Kalish, Sora Kim, Rob Leaf, and Rob Burton for their insights regarding these results and for improving the manuscript. We thank Lisa Natanson for her assistance in white shark vertebrae ageing. This paper was supported in part by the Pacific Shark Research Center and the National Sea Grant College Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under NOAA Grant #NA06RG0142, project number R/F-190, through the California Sea Grant College Program, and in part by the California State Resources Agency. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any of those organizations. This work was performed, in part, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by University of California, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract No. W-7405-Eng-48.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa A. Kerr
    • 1
    Email author
  • Allen H. Andrews
    • 2
  • Gregor M. Cailliet
    • 2
  • Thomas A. Brown
    • 3
  • Kenneth H. Coale
    • 2
  1. 1.Chesapeake Biological LaboratoryUniversity of Maryland Center of Environmental ScienceSolomonsUSA
  2. 2.Moss Landing Marine LaboratoriesCalifornia State UniversityMoss LandingUSA
  3. 3.Center for Accelerator Mass SpectrometryLawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLivermoreUSA

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