Coarse- and fine-scale acoustic telemetry elucidates movement patterns and temporal variability in individual territories for a key coastal mesopredator

  • Sarah L. BeckerEmail author
  • John T. Finn
  • Ashleigh J. Novak
  • Andy J. Danylchuk
  • Clayton G. Pollock
  • Zandy Hillis-Starr
  • Ian Lundgren
  • Adrian JordaanEmail author


Great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) are a high trophic level predator that uses a wide variety of habitats globally throughout tropical and subtropical waters. Despite the important top-down pressure this species likely exerts on fish communities within its foraging territories, the specifics of spatial ecology remain relatively unknown. This study tracked 17 great barracuda throughout Buck Island Reef National Monument, a marine-protected area located in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (17.786944° N, − 64.620556° W) from July 2014 to May 2016. Broad- and fine-scale acoustic telemetry was used to examine individual variability and study population patterns in residency, site fidelity, territoriality, and complexity of spatial use within home ranges. Network analysis of broad-scale data revealed spatial and temporal differentiation among the population in location of core use areas and showed that these areas contained multiple unique receiver groups or communities, a product of spatial or temporal variation within core activity spaces. Results from the fine-scale positioning system reinforced spatial and temporal partitioning in core use areas between individuals, indicating territorial behaviors, and showed evidence for both resident and transient movements. Preliminary fine-scale analysis also suggested diel variation in location of activity spaces. Although ubiquitous throughout all shallow water habitats, detection patterns for the study population appear to be influenced by high residency, territoriality, spatial partitioning, and diel variation. Understanding the complexities of individual space use is fundamental to ecologically founded and effective area-based spatial management frameworks at community scales.


Acoustic telemetry Great barracuda Individuality Network analysis Territoriality VEMCO Positioning System 



This work would not be possible without the contributions of Mark Monaco and Matt Kendall (NOAA Biogeography Branch), Ron Hill and Jennifer Doerr (NOAA Fishery Ecology Branch), Kristen Hart (U.S. Geological Survey), Michael Feeley and David Bryan (South Florida/Caribbean I&M Network), Richard Nemeth (University of the Virgin Islands), Greg Skomal (Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries), and Bryan DeAngelis (The Nature Conservancy). Jamie Kilgo, Tessa Code, Elizabeth Whitcher, and Richard Berey provided vital field assistance during tagging, VPS installs, and receiver downloads and maintenance with the National Park Service in St. Croix. We would also like to thank the reviewers for their contributions. All capture and tagging methods were approved under IACUC #2013-0031 (University of Massachusetts Amherst). All work within the monument was approved by NPS under Study #BUIS-00058 and individual research collection permits #BUIS-2013-SCI_0003 and #BUIS-2014-SCI-0006.

Funding information

This research was funded by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, National Park Service, and Puerto Rico Sea Grant (Project Number R-101-2-14).

Compliance with ethical standards

All applicable international, nation, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.National Park ServiceBuck Island Reef National MonumentChristiansted, St. CroixUSA
  3. 3.NOAA Fisheries, Office of Habitat ConservationHabitat Protection DivisionSilver SpringUSA

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