Size and age compositions and reproductive biology of the nervous shark Carcharhinus cautus in a large subtropical embayment, including an analysis of growth during pre- and postnatal life
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The lengths-at-age of individuals of the nervous shark Carcharhinus cautus in Shark Bay, Western Australia, have been determined and used to explore the types of situation when it might be advisable to shift from employing a von Bertalanffy equation to a more complex equation for describing the growth of this species and of elasmobranchs in general. The reproductive biology of C. cautus was also examined in order to construct curves for describing growth throughout life from conception as well as from parturition. The presence, in November and early December, of fresh bite marks on the sides of mature females and of a very high proportion of spent individuals among mature males indicate that C. cautus copulates in late October/early November. Ovulation and conception occur in late November/early December and parturition takes place approximately 11 months later. Since mature non-pregnant females contain vitellogenic ova for 12–13 months, i.e. from November or December to the following December, and mature pregnant females contain embryos for 11 months, i.e. from December to October, C. cautus has a biennial reproductive cycle. By parturition, the females and males of C. cautus had reached ~28% and 32% of their lengths at their maximum observed ages, respectively. The maximum recorded total lengths and ages of females and males of C. cautus were 133 cm and 16 years and 111 cm and 12 years, respectively. Females and males reached maturity at ~101 and ~91 cm, respectively, and at least 50% of females and males had become mature by the end of their sixth and fourth years of life after parturition, respectively. The three-parameter, von Bertalanffy growth curves provided reasonably good fits to the lengths-at-age of females and males of C. cautus during just postnatal life and throughout the whole of pre- and postnatal life. While the four-parameter, Schnute growth curve significantly improved the fit to these data for both females and males from conception and for females from parturition, it was recognised that the likelihood ratio test is very sensitive when, as in these cases, there are a large number of data points. A number of interrelated factors were thus taken into account when discussing circumstances when it might be appropriate to switch from using a von Bertalanffy growth curve to the more complex Schnute growth curve.
KeywordsGrowth Curve Likelihood Ratio Test Mature Male Reproductive Cycle Mature Female
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