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Scientists shed new light on behavior of shark 'tweens' and 'teenagers'
Date:8/24/2009

STONY BROOK, NY, Aug. 24 A long-term field and DNA study by the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, University of Miami, Field Museum of Chicago and others has shown that young lemon sharks born at the Bimini islands, Bahamas, tend to stay near their coastal birthplace for many years. While shark research and conservation typically focuses on baby sharks confined to shallow habitats, or ocean-roaming adults, less is known about these intermediate-aged animals, which are the breeders of tomorrow and are roughly similar in development to human 'tweens' and teenagers. Tropical island-nations that sacrifice their nursery habitats to coastal development are therefore likely to lose not only babies but also much older sharks from their local areas, with potentially dire effects on the surrounding ecosystem. The study, conducted over a 14-year period at the Bimini Biological Field Station, is the cover article in the August issue of Molecular Ecology, a leading international scientific journal.

"It takes some sharks more than a decade to reach reproductive age, so we set out to better understand the phase of their development from when they are a couple of years old until they are on the verge of sexual maturity," said lead author Dr. Demian Chapman, shark scientist with the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University (SBU) in New York, and an assistant professor at SBU. "We were very surprised to see that many lemon sharks lingered for years around the island where they were born -- often more than half of their development to adulthood."

Fear of deep water--and the bigger predators that live there-- combined with abundant prey in the mangroves around Bimini probably keeps these island-born sharks in safer waters near home for several years after their birth. "This means that using marine reserves and other local conservation measures may help protect sharks born around tropica
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Contact: Kathryn Cervino
kathryn.cervino@stonybrook.edu
347-439-1816
Stony Brook University
Source:Eurekalert  

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