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Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 25–36 | Cite as

The Biology of Tiger Sharks, Galeocerdo Cuvier, in Shark Bay, Western Australia: Sex Ratio, Size Distribution, Diet, and Seasonal Changes in Catch Rates

  • Michael R. Heithaus
Article

Abstract

Tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier, are apex predators in a variety of nearshore ecosystems throughout the world. This study investigates the biology of tiger sharks in the shallow seagrass ecosystem of Shark Bay, Western Australia. Tiger sharks (n = 252) were the most commonly caught species (94%) compared to other large sharks. Tiger sharks ranged from 148–407 cm TL. The overall sex ratio was biased towards females (1.8 : 1), but the sex ratio of mature animals (> 300 cm TL) did not differ from 1 : 1. Contrary to previous accounts, tiger sharks were caught more often in all habitats during daylight hours than at night. Tiger shark catch rates were highly correlated with water temperature and were highest when water temperatures were above 19°C. The seasonal abundance of tiger sharks is correlated to both water temperature and the occurrence of their main prey: sea snakes and dugongs, Dugong dugon. Stomach contents analysis indicated that sea turtles and smaller elasmobranchs were also common prey. The importance of major seagrass grazers (dugongs and green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas) in the diet of tiger sharks suggests the possibility that these sharks are keystone predators in this ecosystem.

predation prey availability keystone predator predator–prey interactions dugong sea turtle 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael R. Heithaus
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Biological SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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