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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 597:191-206 (2018)  -  DOI:

Spatial ecology of Carcharias taurus in the northwestern Mid-Atlantic coastal ocean

D. E. Haulsee1,*, M. W. Breece1, L. M. Brown2, B. M. Wetherbee3, D. A. Fox2, M. J. Oliver1

1College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment, University of Delaware, Lewes, DE 19958, USA
2Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Delaware State University, Dover, DE 19901, USA
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02811, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The sand tiger shark Carcharias taurus is a highly migratory coastal species with declining populations worldwide. This species exhibits many behaviors that make coastal sharks difficult to manage, including aggregatory behavior, sexual segregation, and large-scale migrations through shallow coastal waters with many opportunities for human interactions. Sand tigers from the Western North Atlantic subpopulation are known to seasonally inhabit Delaware Bay and surrounding coastal waters. This region has been recommended as a habitat area of particular concern for the Western North Atlantic sand tiger population, and increased understanding of their movements and habitat requirements will facilitate management efforts. We developed models to predict sand tiger occupancy using spatially dynamic environmental predictors. Our models predicted sand tiger (juveniles, adult males, adult females, and all sharks combined) occurrences in 2 study regions, the Delaware Bay and the western Mid-Atlantic coastal ocean. Sea surface temperature, day of year, water depth, and remote sensing reflectance at 555 nm were the most important environmental predictors of occurrence, and correctly predicted 80-89% of sand tiger acoustic telemetry records in the 2 study regions. Our models predicted differences in the timing and location of occurrences among juveniles and adults, as well as areas where these life history stages overlap in the Mid-Atlantic coastal ocean. Our hope is that a daily forecast of sand tiger occurrence from our modeling efforts could be useful for conservation and management efforts in this important region, as well as for studying the spatial and behavioral ecology of this important top predator.

KEY WORDS: Acoustic telemetry · Generalized additive mixed model · Predictive habitat modeling · Species distribution · Sand tiger shark · Carcharias taurus

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Cite this article as: Haulsee DE, Breece MW, Brown LM, Wetherbee BM, Fox DA, Oliver MJ (2018) Spatial ecology of Carcharias taurus in the northwestern Mid-Atlantic coastal ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 597:191-206.

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