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Spatial ecology of shark-like batoids in a large coastal embayment

Abstract

Understanding how spatial ecology varies between life stages, and whether there is an overlap of critical areas (e.g., nursery areas, breeding sites), may provide significant benefits to conservation planning. The present work examined the space use and residency of shark-like batoids (families Rhynchobatidae and Rhinobatidae) in a nearshore system. An array of 63 acoustic receivers deployed in Cleveland Bay, north Queensland, Australia, passively tracked 15 G. typus and 20 Rhynchobatus spp. between 2009 and 2011. Glaucostegus typus were monitored between 1 and 766 days (mean = 333 ± 69 days) and were present in the site from 1 to 198 days (mean 73 ± 25 days). Both adult male and female G. typus exhibited philopatric behaviour patterns, leaving the bay and returning after periods of about 9–12 months to use the same areas where they were detected in previous years. Individuals with lower residency had larger activity spaces. Rhynchobatus spp. were monitored for 1 to 707 days (mean = 231 ± 50 days) and were present in the site from 1 to 350 days (mean 82 ± 24 days). Rhynchobatus spp. exhibited no synchronicity in use of the bay. Both G. typus male and female residency changed with size of individuals, in comparison size had no effect on the residency of Rhynchobatus spp. The present study improves our understanding of shark-like batoid spatial ecology in nearshore waters and may provide useful information for the management of these populations.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the staff and students of the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, including A. Chin, F. De Faria, A. Schlaff, O. Li, A. Harry and all volunteers for assistance with this project. Funding for this research was provided by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) awarded to M.R. Heupel and C.A. Simpfendorfer. Additional research funding was granted to J. White from Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation (SWRRFI), James Cook University (JCU) School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES). J. White was also supported by a JCU Postgraduate Research Scholarship and Smart State Futures Stipend. All research activities were conducted under GBRMPA permit # G09/29895.1 and Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries permit #90911. Treatment of all animals was conducted under ethical guidelines approved by JCU animal ethics #A1566. Spatial data was provided by the Commonwealth of Australia (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) 2010.

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White, J., Simpfendorfer, C.A., Tobin, A.J. et al. Spatial ecology of shark-like batoids in a large coastal embayment. Environ Biol Fish 97, 773–786 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-013-0178-7

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Keywords

  • Rhynchobatus
  • Glaucostegus typus
  • Activity space
  • Residency
  • Philopatry
  • Acoustic monitoring