Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 117–135 | Cite as

Movements and Swimming Behavior of Three Species of Sharks in La Jolla Canyon, California

  • A. Peter Klimley
  • Sallie C. Beavers
  • Tobey H. Curtis
  • Salvador J. Jorgensen


We tracked six individuals of three shark species, the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, great white, Carcharodon carcharias, and blue, Prionace glauca, near the submarine canyon off La Jolla, southern California during the summers of 1995 and 1997. The duration of tracking ranged from 2 to 38 h per shark. The mode of travel differed in one respect among species. The rate of movement of the endothermic species, the mako and white shark, exceeded that of the ectothermic species, the blue shark. Similarities among species were more common. Firstly, individuals of all three species swam in a directional manner. Secondly, individuals constantly moved up and down in the water column, exhibiting oscillatory or yo-yo swimming. Thirdly, members of the three species swam at the surface for prolonged periods. Finally, the movements of the mako and white sharks were at times loosely associated with bottom topography. We discuss the various adaptive advantages that have been proposed for these behavioral patterns. Oscillatory swimming has been attributed to the following: (1) heating the body in the warm surface waters after swimming in cold, deep water, (2) alternating between two strata of water, one carrying chemical information as to its source, and deriving a direction to that stratum's origin, (3) conserving energy by quickly propelling oneself upward with many tail beats and slowly gliding downward with few beats, and (4) descending to where magnetic gradients are steeper, more perceptible, and useful to guide migratory movements. At the surface, an individual would be able to swim in a straight line by using following features as a reference: (1) celestial bodies, (2) polarized light, or (3) the earth's main dipole field. Furthermore, an individual would conserve energy because of the greater ease to maintaining a warm body in the heated surface waters.

Carcharodon diving Isurus orientation Prionace sharks speed telemetry 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Peter Klimley
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sallie C. Beavers
    • 1
  • Tobey H. Curtis
    • 1
  • Salvador J. Jorgensen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Bodega Marine LaboratoryUniversity of California, DavisBodega BayU.S.A.
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisU.S.A.

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