Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 77, Issue 3–4, pp 279–292 | Cite as

Do differences in life history exist for blacktip sharks, Carcharhinus limbatus, from the United States South Atlantic Bight and Eastern Gulf of Mexico?

  • John K. Carlson
  • James R. Sulikowski
  • Ivy E. Baremore
Original Paper


We examined life history traits (e.g., mean length-at-age, growth rate, age-at-maturity) for blacktip sharks collected from two separate geographical areas (eastern Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Bight) to address the potential for separate stocks in southeastern US waters. Samples were obtained from fishery-dependent and independent sources. Growth and logistic models were fitted to observed length-at-age and reproductive data, respectively. von Bertalanffy growth parameters derived for blacktip shark from the Gulf of Mexico show that they attain a statistically smaller theoretical maximum length (L  = 141.6 cm vs. L  = 158.5 cm for female and L  = 126.0 cm FL and L  = 147.4 cm FL for male) and have a faster growth rate (k = 0.24 yr−1 vs. k = 0.16 yr−1 for female and k = 0.27 yr−1 vs. k = 0.21 yr−1 for male) than conspecifics in the South Atlantic Bight. Median length- and age-at-maturity were significantly different between sex and area. Length at which 50% of the population is mature was 117.3 cm FL for females and 103.4 cm FL for males in the Gulf of Mexico and 126.6 cm FL for females and 116.7 cm FL for males in the South Atlantic Bight. Median age-at-maturity was 5.7 yrs and 4.5 yrs for females and males in the Gulf of Mexico, respectively, while age-at-maturity was 6.7 yrs for females and 5.0 yrs for males for sharks from the South Atlantic Bight. Due to varying statistical results, temporal problems of sampling, and potential for gear bias, we could not definitively conclude that differences in life history characteristics exist.


Growth Reproduction Age Stock 



Ken Goldman, Pete Sheridan and Linda Lombardi provided helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Lori Hale (NOAA Fisheries Service-Panama City Laboratory) assisted with the processing and reading of samples and Linda Lombardi developed the SAS code for the maturity estimates. George Burgess and Matt Callahan (University of Florida) obtained samples from the directed shark longline fishery. John Tyminski (Mote Marine Laboratory) provided samples off Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor, FL. Armando de ron Santiago, C.J. Greene, Matt Rayl, Bill Habich, Mike Farni, Jacques Hill, and Jeff Pulver collected samples from the directed shark gillnet fishery. Mark Grace and Lisa Jones (NOAA Fisheries-Mississippi Laboratory) helped to provide samples during R/V Oregon II longline surveys. Thanks also go to Jose Castro (NOAA Fisheries-Miami Laboratory) who provided data from his blacktip reproduction study.


  1. Beamish RJ, Fournier DA (1981) A method for comparing the precision of a set of age determinations. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 38:982–983Google Scholar
  2. Beerkircher L, Shivji M, Cortés E (2003) A Monte Carlo demographic analysis of silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis): implications of gear selectivity. Fish Bull 101:168–174Google Scholar
  3. Begg GA (2005) Life history parameters. In: Cadrin SX, Friedland KD, Waldman JR (eds) Stock identification methods. Elsevier Academic Press, New York, pp 119–150Google Scholar
  4. Beverton RJH, Holt SJ (1957) On the dynamics of exploited fish populations. Ministry of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food Fishery Investigation Series II XIX, 533 ppGoogle Scholar
  5. Branstetter S (1987) Age and growth estimates for the blacktip, Carcharhinus limbatus, and spinner, C. brevipinna, sharks from the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Copeia 1987:964–974CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burgess GH, Morgan A (2003) Commercial shark fishery observer program. Renewal of an observer program to monitor the directed commercial shark fishery in the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic: 2002(2) and 2003(1) fishing seasons. Final Report, National Marine Fisheries Service, Highly Migratory Species Management Division Award NA16FM1598, 15 ppGoogle Scholar
  7. Cailliet GM, Goldman KJ (2004) Age determination and validation in chondrichthyan fishes. In: Carrier JC, Musick JA, Heithaus M (eds) The biology of sharks and their relatives, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 399–447Google Scholar
  8. Cailliet GM, Yudin KG, Tanaka S, Taniuchi T (1990) Growth characteristics of two populations of Mustelus manazo from Japan based upon cross reading of vertebral bands. In: Pratt HL Jr, Gruber SH, Taniuchi T (eds) Elasmobranchs as living resources: advances in the biology, ecology, systematics, and the status of the fisheries. NOAA Technical Report, NMFS 90. Silver Spring, MD, pp 167–176Google Scholar
  9. Carlson JK (2003) Shark nurseries in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. In: McCandless CT, Pratt HL Jr (eds) Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic States shark nursery overview. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Silver Spring, MD, pp 165–182Google Scholar
  10. Carlson JK, Baremore IE (2003) Changes in biological parameters of Atlantic sharpnose shark Rhizoprionodon terraenovae in the Gulf of Mexico: evidence for density-dependent growth and maturity? Mar Freshwater Res 54: 227–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carlson JK, Baremore IE (2005) Growth dynamics of the spinner shark, Carcharhinus brevipinna, off the United States Southeast and Gulf of Mexico coasts: a comparison of methods. Fish Bull 103:280–291Google Scholar
  12. Carlson JK, Brusher JH (1999) An index of abundance for coastal species of juvenile sharks from the northeast Gulf of Mexico. Mar Fish Rev 61(3):37–45Google Scholar
  13. Carlson JK, Cortés E (2003) Gillnet selectivity of small coastal sharks off the southeastern United States. Fish Res 60:405–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carlson JK, Cortés E, Bethea D (2003) Life history and population dynamics of the finetooth shark, Carcharhinus isodon, in the northeast Gulf of Mexico. Fish Bull 101:281–292Google Scholar
  15. Carlson JK, Cortés E, Johnson AJ (1999) Age and growth of the blacknose shark, Carcharhinus acronotus, from the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Copeia 1999:683–690Google Scholar
  16. Castro JI (1996) Biology of the blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus, off the southeastern United States. Bull Mar Sci 59:508–522Google Scholar
  17. Compagno LJV (1984) FAO species catalogue: sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis (125), Vol. 4, part 1: Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 249 ppGoogle Scholar
  18. Conover DO, Present TMC (1990) Countergradient variation in growth rate: compensation for length of the growing season among Atlantic silversides from different latitudes. Oecologia 83:316–324Google Scholar
  19. Conrath CL, Gelsleichter J, Musick JA (2002) Age and growth of the smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis) in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Fish Bull 100:674–682Google Scholar
  20. Driggers WB, Carlson JK, Oakley D, Ulrich G, Cullum B, Dean JM (2004) Age and growth of the blacknose shark, Carcharhinus acronotus, in the western North Atlantic Ocean with comments on regional variation in growth rates. Environ Biol Fish 71:171–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goldman KJ (2004) Age and growth of elasmobranch fishes. In: Musick JA, Bonfil R (eds) Elasmobranch fisheries management techniques. Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, Singapore, pp 97–132Google Scholar
  22. Goosen AJJ, Smale MJ (1997) A preliminary study of the age and growth of the smoothhound shark Mustelus mustelus (Triakidae). S Afr J Mar Sci 18:85–91Google Scholar
  23. Grace M, Henwood T (1998) Assessment of the distribution and abundance of coastal sharks in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and eastern seaboard, 1995 and 1996. Mar Fish Rev 59(4):23–32Google Scholar
  24. Hoenig JM, Morgan MJ, Brown CA (1995) Analysing differences between two age determination methods by tests of symmetry. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 52:364–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hueter RE, Manire CA (1994) Bycatch and catch-release mortality of small sharks in the Gulf coast nursery grounds of Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. Mote Marine Laboratory Technical Report 368. Sarasota, FL, pp 1–183Google Scholar
  26. Ihssen PE, Booke HE, Casselman JM, McGlade JM, Payne NR, Utter FM (1981) Stock identification: materials and methods. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 38:1838–1855CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Keeney DB, Heupel M, Hueter RE, Heist EJ (2005) Microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA analyses of the genetic structure of blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) nurseries in the northwestern Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. Mol Ecol 14:1911–1923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Killam KA, Parsons GR (1989) Age and growth of the blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus near Tampa Bay, Florida. Fish Bull 87:845–857Google Scholar
  29. Kimura DK (1980) Likelihood methods for the von Bertalanffy growth curve. Fish Bull 77:765–776Google Scholar
  30. Kohler NE, Casey JG, Turner PA (1998) NMFS cooperative shark tagging program 1962–93: An atlas of shark tag and recapture data. Mar Fish Rev 60(2):1–87Google Scholar
  31. Lombardi-Carlson LA, Cortés E, Parsons GR, Manire CA (2003) Latitudinal variation in life-history traits of bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo, (Carcharhiniformes:Sphyrnidae) from the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Mar Freshwater Res 54:875–883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Musick JA, Harbin MM, Compagno LJV (2004) Historical zoogeography of the selachii. In: Carrier JC, Musick JA, Heithaus M (eds) The biology of sharks and their relatives. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 33–78Google Scholar
  33. Natanson L, Casey JG, Kohler NE (1995) Age and growth estimates for the dusky shark, Carcharhinus obscurus, in the western Atlantic Ocean. Fish Bull 93:116–126Google Scholar
  34. Neer JA, Thompson BA (2005) Life history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with comments on geographic variability in life history traits. Environ Biol Fish 73:321–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) (2003) Final amendment 1 to the fishery management plan of the Atlantic tunas, swordfish and sharks. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Silver Spring, MD, 412 ppGoogle Scholar
  36. Punt AE (2001) Review of the assessments of and management advice for Atlantic large coastal sharks. An independent review document for the National Marine Fisheries Service. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Silver Spring, MD, 28 ppGoogle Scholar
  37. Ricker WE (1975) Computation and interpretation of biological statistics of fish populations. Bull Fish Res Board Can 191, 382 ppGoogle Scholar
  38. Simpfendorfer CA (2000) Age and growth of the whiskery shark, Furgaleus macki, from south-western Australia. Environ Biol Fish 58:335–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sminkey TR, Musick JA (1995) Age and growth of the sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, before and after population depletion. Copeia 1995:871–883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sulikowski JA, Kneebone J, Elzey S, Jurek J, Danley P, Howell WH, Tsang PWC (2005) Age and growth estimates of the thorny skate (Amblyraja radiata) in the western Gulf of Maine. Fish Bull 103:536–543Google Scholar
  41. Sulikowski JA, Morin MD, Suk SH, Howell WH (2003) Age and growth of the winter skate, Leucoraja ocellata, in the Gulf of Maine. Fish Bull 101:405–413Google Scholar
  42. Tanaka S, Cailliet GM, Yudin KG (1990) Differences in growth of the blue shark, Prionace glauca: technique or population? In: Pratt HL, Gruber SH, Taniuchi T (eds) Elasmobranchs as living resources: advances in the biology, ecology, systematics, and the status of the fisheries. NOAA Technical 395 Report. NMFS 90. Silver Spring, MD, pp 177–187Google Scholar
  43. Taniuchi T, Kuroda N, Shimizu M, Nose Y (1983) Age, growth, reproduction, and food habits of the star-spotted dogfish Mustelus manazo collected from Chosi. Bull Jpn Soc Sci Fish 49:1325–1334Google Scholar
  44. Trent L, Parshley DE, Carlson JK (1997) Catch and bycatch in the shark drift gillnet fishery off Georgia and Florida. Mar Fish Rev 59(1):19–28Google Scholar
  45. Van Dykhuizen G, Mollet HF (1992) Growth, age estimation, and feeding of captive sevengill sharks, Notorynchus cepedianus, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Austr J Mar Freshwater Res 43:297–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Von Bertalanffy L (1938) A quantitative theory of organic growth (inquiries on growth laws. II). Hum Biol 10:181–213Google Scholar
  47. Walker TI, Taylor BL, Hudson RJ, Cottier JP (1998) The phenomenon of apparent change of growth rate in gummy shark (Mustelus antarcticus) harvested off southern. Austr Fish Res 39:139–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zar JH (1984) Biostatistical analysis, 2nd edn. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 243 ppGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • John K. Carlson
    • 1
  • James R. Sulikowski
    • 2
  • Ivy E. Baremore
    • 3
  1. 1.NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science CenterPanama CityUSA
  2. 2.Florida Program for Shark Research, Florida Museum of Natural HistoryUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Fisheries and Aquatic SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations