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Distribution, ecology, and status of the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, in the Mediterranean Sea

Abstract

The occurrence of the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, in the Mediterranean Sea has been reported since the Middle Ages (476–1453). Several studies have documented its presence in various areas of the basin, but no comprehensive review of the distribution and status of this species is available for the area. We compiled a total of 628 white shark records from 476 to 2015. Data suggests that the white shark is more common in the western Mediterranean Sea, especially in the Adriatic Sea and in the Sicilian Channel and is more frequently observed during summer months. However, analysis using night-time satellite imagery showed the existence of an anthropogenic bias in the distribution of white sharks. All size classes have been recorded in the region. However, the highest occurrence of young of the year has been recorded in the Sicilian Channel, in the Adriatic Sea and in the Aegean Sea, in summer, suggesting these areas might serve as nursery grounds. In the Mediterranean Sea, the white shark exhibits a broad diet. The most common prey found include small cetaceans (Tursiops truncatus, Stenella coeruleoalba), tuna (Thunnus spp.), swordfish (Xiphias gladius) and loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). A total of 53 white shark records refer to interactions between sharks and humans that resulted in a detrimental impact on humans, which include 42 bites and 11 reports of the presence of human remains in the stomach of captured animals. Analysis of the temporal variation in mean total lengths of white sharks found a decreasing trend from 1913 to 2012. The decreasing length of white sharks suggests this species might be declining in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Fig. 1

Modified from FAO (http://www.fao.org/fishery/area/Area37/en)

Fig. 2

Image modified from Micheli et al. (2013a)

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Dr. Marta D’Elia for helping with statistical analysis. We would like also to thank Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Roderick for their help in using ArcGIS 10.2.

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Boldrocchi, G., Kiszka, J., Purkis, S. et al. Distribution, ecology, and status of the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, in the Mediterranean Sea. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 27, 515–534 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-017-9470-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-017-9470-5

Keywords

  • Spatio-temporal distribution
  • Nursery grounds
  • Size distribution
  • Human interactions
  • Feeding ecology