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Intra-specific variation in movement and habitat connectivity of a mobile predator revealed by acoustic telemetry and network analyses
Few studies have considered linkages of mobile predators across large spatial scales despite their significant and often critical role in maintaining ecosystem function and health. The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) is a large, widespread coastal predator capable of undertaking long-range movement, but there is still limited understanding of intra-regional differences in movement and habitat connectivity across latitudes within the same coastline. This study used acoustic telemetry data and network analyses to investigate long-range movements, residency patterns and seasonal habitat linkages of sub-adult and adult C. leucas along the east coast of Australia. Our results revealed that C. leucas tagged in Sydney Harbour were mainly present within this temperate estuary in summer and autumn; the rest of the year individuals were detected in tropical and subtropical habitats from southern and central Queensland. In contrast, the detection probability of C. leucas tagged in the Townsville Reefs (central Great Barrier Reef) peaked in spring, with a portion of the tagged population migrating south during the summer months. Differences in residency time between tagging locations were also detected, as all C. leucas tagged in Sydney Harbour were absent between June and November, but 35% of the tropical-reef tagged population remained resident year-round. Network analyses complemented these findings by revealing different seasonal habitat use between regions, thus highlighting complex seasonal-habitat linkages of C. leucas along the coast. Our findings support the hypothesis that the timing, duration, and drivers involved in the long-range movements and connectivity of sub-adult and adult C. leucas vary between latitudinal regions, most likely driven by the interaction between seasonal temperature changes, foraging and reproduction.
Publication titleMarine Biology
Department/SchoolIntegrated Marine Observing System
Place of publicationGermany
Rights statement© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.