Ontogenetic habitat preferences of the narrownose smooth-hound shark, Mustelus schmitti, in two Southwestern Atlantic coastal areas
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The aim of this study was to determine the ontogenetic habitat preferences of the narrownose smooth-hound shark, Mustelus schmitti, in Río de la Plata and El Rincón coastal areas. There, canonical correspondence analyses of fishery research survey data showed that M. schmitti ontogenetic stages were differentially affected by depth, temperature and salinity. Neonates and juveniles were more abundant and remain in nearshore waters, suggesting the presence of nursery areas in which food availability and environmental conditions allow a faster growth. Adults M. schmitti presented different environmental associations mainly associated with depth and temperature. During non-reproductive season they were associated with deeper coastal waters. With the arrival of the reproductive season, adults migrate from deep to nearshore waters and show sexual segregation associated with pre- or post-mating behaviors. Hence, the year-round presence of neonates and juveniles and the seasonal occurrence of adults in nearshore waters make this habitat essential to M. schmitti population dynamics since key ontogenetic stages will be vulnerable if a direct impact occurs there.