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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 433:237-244 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09191

Estuarine nursery areas provide a low-mortality environment for young bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas

Michelle R. Heupel1,2,*, Colin A. Simpfendorfer1,3

1Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA
2Australian Institute of Marine Science and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

ABSTRACT: Defining the role and impact of mortality within aquatic populations is often difficult. As a result, we still lack a clear understanding of the level of mortality in natural populations and the role habitat may play in survival. We used long-term acoustic monitoring of neonate bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas in a south Florida estuary to determine mortality rates within this population. Estimates of natural, fishing and total mortality varied among the years examined, but not significantly, suggesting similar survival among years with the majority of individuals (77%) surviving beyond 18 mo. Compared with other juvenile sharks, mortality rates of C. leucas were low. The results indicate that the use of mesohaline estuarine habitats by C. leucas may provide benefits that are not present in more marine habitats where their counterparts reside. Use of estuarine regions may be a successful ecological strategy for improving survival because of reduced predation and competition.


KEY WORDS: Ecological advantage · Survival · Estuary · Bull shark · Carcharhinus leucas · River


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Cite this article as: Heupel MR, Simpfendorfer CA (2011) Estuarine nursery areas provide a low-mortality environment for young bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 433:237-244. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09191

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