Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 98, Issue 6, pp 1609–1622 | Cite as

Characterizing the bull shark Carcharhinus leucas habitat in Fiji by the chemical and isotopic compositions of their teeth

  • László KocsisEmail author
  • Torsten W. Vennemann
  • Alex Ulianov
  • Juerg M. Brunnschweiler


Bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas use estuarine and riverine systems as nursery habitat. The Shark Reef Marine Reserve (SRMR) on the southern coast of Viti Levu, Fiji, is well-known for its adult bull shark population. The species’ seasonal departure from the SRMR is related to reproductive activity, but nursery grounds have not yet been identified on the southern coast of Viti Levu. In order to further identify and characterise bull shark habitats in Fiji, 49 teeth were collected from bull sharks encountered at the SRMR and measured for their trace element concentrations, and 22 of them for oxygen isotopic composition in the phosphate group of bioapatite. The trace element analyses yielded relatively high Na, Mg, Sr, and F and low Ba concentrations for all the teeth supporting formation in marine environment. The phosphate oxygen isotope data concur with this result and the data evidently show that these teeth developed under marine condition relating to the temperature and oxygen isotopic composition of Fiji’s coastal waters. Therefore, the investigated teeth show no signs of freshwater habitat. Our results do not support the hypothesis that bull sharks enter freshwater habitats, at least not for longer time periods, during their absence from the SRMR. Additionally, the bull shark teeth had unexpectedly high zinc concentration at the very edge of the enameloid. This cannot be explained by environmental factors; therefore the high Zn content is interpreted here as a result of biological process, a reflection of enzyme (i.e., KLK4) related organic matter removal and enhanced crystallization during tooth maturation.


Shark teeth Trace elements Oxygen isotopes in phosphate Zinc concentration Shark Reef Marine Reserve 



We thank the staff of Beqa Adventure Divers for logistical support and collecting the teeth at the Shark Reef Marine Reserve. The following researchers and institutes are gratefully acknowledged for the supply of shark teeth from different regions: N. Hammerschlag - Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Florida, USA; R. Pillans - University of Queensland, Australia; G. Cliff - Natal Sharks Board, South Africa; School of Biology, University of Costa Rica; and Tropicarium Budapest, Hungary. L.K. received support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (Swiss National Foundation-Ambizione PZ00P2_126407/1) when this research was realised. J.M.B. was supported by the Shark Foundation Switzerland ( J. Earle is acknowledged for proofreading the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • László Kocsis
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Torsten W. Vennemann
    • 2
  • Alex Ulianov
    • 1
  • Juerg M. Brunnschweiler
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Earth Sciences, UNIL-GEOPOLISUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, UNIL-GEOPOLISUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.ZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Geology Group, Faculty of ScienceUniversiti Brunei DarussalamGadongBrunei Darussalam

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