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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 623:85-97 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13010

Fine-scale movements of juvenile blacktip reef sharks Carcharhinus melanopterus in a shallow nearshore nursery

Lachlan W. George1,2,*, Ana P. B. Martins1,2, Michelle R. Heupel3, Colin A. Simpfendorfer1

1Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture & College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
2AIMS@JCU, Division of Research & Innovation, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
3Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, QLD 4810, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Limited information is available on the fine-scale movements and habitat use of juvenile sharks in very shallow (<1 m) nearshore areas and the factors that drive these behaviours. Active acoustic tracking was used to investigate movements and habitat use of juvenile (683 ± 58 mm total length; mean ± SD) blacktip reef sharks Carcharhinus melanopterus at Orpheus Island, Australia. Six juveniles were tracked by foot and boat for over 62 h. Juveniles moved in synchrony with tidal cycles, always remaining within very shallow (<1 m) sandy reef flat or reef crest waters during outgoing, low and incoming tides, and using inundated mangrove habitat during higher tides, indicating that tidal fluctuations were a major driver of movement and habitat use. Individuals never left the bay where they were captured or entered deep water beyond the fringing reef, restricting their movements within water <60 cm deep. In general, linearity and rate of movement were significantly higher during incoming or outgoing tides, whereas these measures were significantly lower during higher tide heights when juveniles were occupying mangrove habitats. The observed behaviour was most likely a predator-avoidance strategy, highlighting the importance of mangrove root habitat use by juvenile blacktip reef sharks in coastal nursery areas and indicating that this may be an essential habitat for the young of this species.


KEY WORDS: Active acoustic telemetry · Fine-scale movements · Nursery area · Predator avoidance · Tidal variation · Habitat use


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Cite this article as: George LW, Martins APB, Heupel MR, Simpfendorfer CA (2019) Fine-scale movements of juvenile blacktip reef sharks Carcharhinus melanopterus in a shallow nearshore nursery. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 623:85-97. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13010

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