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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13589

Evidence and description of a nursery habitat for the recently reclassified stingray Styracura schmardae from The Bahamas

O. R. O’Shea*, T. E. Van Leeuwen, D. A. O’Brien, L. Arrowsmith, R. McCalman, M. Griffiths, D. Exton

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ABSTRACT: While definitions of elasmobranch nurseries remain fluid within the literature, the identification and description of nursery habitats for batoids remain relatively scarce. The Atlantic chupare stingray Styracura schmardae is a large bodied demersal ray considered data deficient by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and recently described from The Bahamas. Using a combination of mark-recapture and benthic habitat surveying, we describe for the first-time, long-term site fidelity of S. schmardae, and provide evidence and characteristics of a nursery environment for this species in South Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Overall, 190 capture events were recorded from 86 tagged individuals from April 2014 to August 2017 (1222 days), with 51% of individuals recaptured at least once, 36% at least twice and 2% six times. Ninety-five percent of rays captured were considered immature (mean disc width WD, 553.5 mm) and had an average residence time ± SD of 243 ± 177 days. Residence time did not differ among sites, sex and disc width of individual rays at time of capture. Of four creeks sampled, Deep Creek had the highest prevalence of captures and recaptures, and correspondingly the highest values for soft sediment cover and sediment depth among sites, suggesting these habitat characteristics in particular may be important in supporting juvenile S. schmardae populations. Results of this study will better inform effective management and conservation efforts for S. schmardae, as well as concentrating on localised conservation efforts on these ecosystems.