Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
Florida Coastal Everglades LTER - Project Information
Project Information

Distribution and habitat use of juvenile bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) in a coastal estuarine ecosystem

Long-term project
Start date: Dec-2007          End date: Aug-2013
Contact person: Philip Matich
Funding organization(s):
National Science Foundation

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The Florida Coastal Everglades provides habitat to several top predators, including bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas). Their unique physiology allows them to regularly inhabit both fresh and marine waters, and coastal estuaries serve as nurseries for juvenile bull sharks prior to maturity. Previous studies have shown that bull sharks regularly use multiple habitat types (marine and fresh waters) throughout the year, and thus may have strong impacts on predator and prey taxa, and on the transportation of energy and materials within and between different habitats. This study was initiated in December 2007 in the Shark River Slough (SRS) (Everglades National Park), with the goal of understanding the factors (abiotic and biotic) driving the habitat use of juvenile bull sharks. Using acoustic telemetry, we monitor the broad scale movement patterns of sharks within an array of 42 monitoring stations stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to >30km upstream. We have surgically implanted acoustic transmitters in 50 bull sharks have from Dec. 2007 to Jul. 2010. Preliminary data shows that there is considerable variation in movement tactics within the population, and sharks use all habitat areas. This project will provide important data on the long-term and large-scale habitat use of bull sharks during juvenile years and the factors influencing their decision making. This is important, because as planned changes in SRS hydroperiod are made, modifications in habitat quality may result in the alteration of bull shark habitat use and in turn alter the dynamics of the ecosystem.

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National Science Foundation logo This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DEB-1237517, #DBI-0620409, and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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