MEPS 547:163-175 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11646

Vertical movements of shortfin mako sharks Isurus oxyrinchus in the western North Atlantic Ocean are strongly influenced by temperature

Jeremy J. Vaudo1,2,*, Bradley M. Wetherbee1,3, Anthony D. Wood4, Kevin Weng5, Lucy A. Howey-Jordan1, Guy M. Harvey1, Mahmood S. Shivji1,2 

1The Guy Harvey Research Institute, Nova Southeastern University, Dania Beach, FL 33004, USA
2The Save Our Seas Shark Research Center, Nova Southeastern University, Dania Beach, FL 33004, USA
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA
4Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA
5Fisheries Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Although shortfin mako sharks Isurus oxyrinchus are regularly encountered in pelagic fisheries, limited information is available on their vertical distribution and is primarily restricted to cooler areas of their geographic range. We investigated the vertical movements of mako sharks across differing temperature regimes within the western North Atlantic by tagging 8 individuals with pop-up satellite archival tags off the northeastern United States and the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Depth and temperature records across 587 d showed vertical movements strongly associated with ocean temperature. Temperatures <15°C created a lower depth limit to most diving behaviors, and shifts in depths used coincided with changes in the thermal properties of the vertical habitat. In the warmest water columns, sharks spent 36% of the daytime at depths >150 m compared to only 1% in the coldest water columns. The sharks showed diel diving behavior, with deeper dives occurring primarily during the daytime (maximum depth: 866 m). Overall, sharks experienced temperatures between 5.2 and 31.1°C. When the opportunity was available, sharks spent considerable time in waters ranging from 22 to 27°C, indicating underestimation of the previously reported upper limit of the mako sharks’ preferred temperature. The preference for higher temperatures does not support endothermy as an adaption for niche expansion in mako sharks. The strong influence of thermal habitat on movement behavior suggests potentially strong impacts of rising ocean temperatures on the ecology of this highly migratory top predator.


KEY WORDS: Habitat use · Satellite tracking · Dive behavior · Telemetry


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Cite this article as: Vaudo JJ, Wetherbee BM, Wood AD, Weng K, Howey-Jordan LA, Harvey GM, Shivji MS (2016) Vertical movements of shortfin mako sharks Isurus oxyrinchus in the western North Atlantic Ocean are strongly influenced by temperature. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 547:163-175. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11646

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