Understanding the movement ecology of marine species is important for conservation management and monitoring their responses to environmental change. In this study, adult and subadult bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas; n = 16) were acoustically tagged in Biscayne Bay, Florida (USA), where they were tracked locally via an array of 40 passive acoustic receivers, as well as regionally via cooperative acoustic telemetry networks, with individuals tracked up to 4.5 years. Detection data were used to assess philopatry, regional connectivity, and environmental correlates of shark habitat use. Spatial range varied per individual; however, most individuals displayed high residency to Biscayne Bay, exhibiting strong philopatric behavior to the tagging area. A generalized linear mixed model revealed a seasonal pattern in habitat use, with mature females displaying high residency in Biscayne Bay during the colder dry season (November to February) and lower residencies during the warmer wet season (June to October). These seasonal patterns were supported by catch data from long-term fishery-independent shark surveys in the study area. During summer months when residencies of C. leucas declined in Biscayne Bay, their residencies increased in other regions (e.g., Florida Gulf Coast), demonstrative of seasonal migrations. Connectivity between areas of high use (Biscayne Bay and Florida Gulf Coast) was demonstrated by some individuals traveling between these areas. Results from generalized additive mixed models suggest that these movement patterns could be partially driven by seasonal changes in environmental variables as well as an individual’s life stage, including reproductive status.
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Data availability and online material
Raw acoustic tracking data are archived and is available at the Ocean Tracking Network’s data warehouse website: https://members.oceantrack.org/.
The code used for data preparation, manipulation, and analysis can be found on Github at this link: https://github.com/lauramcdonnell/UMsharktagging/blob/master/manuscripts/bullshark/bull_script.R.
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This research was supported by the contributions of all the University of Miami’s Shark Research and Conservation Program team members who assisted in this project. Special thanks to Stephen Cain, Carl Hampp, Robbie Roemer, Austin Gallagher, and Abby Tinari for logistical support. For their equipment and technical support, we thank several collaborative networks and their contributing members: Florida Atlantic Coast Telemetry Network, Ocean Tracking Network, Integrated Tracking of Aquatic Animals in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mid-Atlantic Acoustic Telemetry Observation System.
This work was supported by funds from the Batchelor Foundation, Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, Ocean Tracking Network, Save Our Seas Foundation, and Disney Conservation Fund.
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The authors have no conflict of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.
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This work was conducted under permits from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the US National Marine Fisheries Service, and the University of Miami Animal Welfare and Care Committee (Protocol 18–154).
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Distribution of acoustic telemetry receivers in Biscayne Bay, Florida.
Table showing detailed inter-regional movements of each individual. Each row displays information on when an individual arrived in a region, left that region, the number of detections that occurred, the amount of time spent, and a mean latitude and longitude of all receivers in that region the individual was detected on during said event.
Mean chlorophyll levels (mg m-3) as extracted from NOAA’s ERDAPP database (Aqua MODIS NPP 0.025 product) in Biscayne Bay study region between 2015 and 2020 (averaged monthly).
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Rider, M.J., McDonnell, L.H. & Hammerschlag, N. Multi-year movements of adult and subadult bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas): philopatry, connectivity, and environmental influences. Aquat Ecol 55, 559–577 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10452-021-09845-6