Bachelor of Arts, Boston University (2001)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of California Davis (2009)
Barbara Block, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is a wide-ranging apex predator in the northeastern Pacific (NEP). Electronic tagging has demonstrated that white sharks exhibit a regular migratory pattern, occurring at coastal sites during the late summer, autumn and early winter and moving offshore to oceanic habitats during the remainder of the year, although the purpose of these migrations remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to use stable isotope analysis (SIA) to provide insight into the trophic ecology and migratory behaviors of white sharks in the NEP. Between 2006 and 2009, 53 white sharks were biopsied in central California to obtain dermal and muscle tissues, which were analyzed for stable isotope values of carbon (?(13)C) and nitrogen (?(15)N). We developed a mixing model that directly incorporates movement data and tissue incorporation (turnover) rates to better estimate the relative importance of different focal areas to white shark diet and elucidate their migratory behavior. Mixing model results for muscle showed a relatively equal dietary contribution from coastal and offshore regions, indicating that white sharks forage in both areas. However, model results indicated that sharks foraged at a higher relative rate in coastal habitats. There was a negative relationship between shark length and muscle ?(13)C and ?(15)N values, which may indicate ontogenetic changes in habitat use related to onset of maturity. The isotopic composition of dermal tissue was consistent with a more rapid incorporation rate than muscle and may represent more recent foraging. Low offshore consumption rates suggest that it is unlikely that foraging is the primary purpose of the offshore migrations. These results demonstrate how SIA can provide insight into the trophic ecology and migratory behavior of marine predators, especially when coupled with electronic tagging data.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0030492
View details for Web of Science ID 000302741300013
View details for PubMedID 22355313
The decline of sharks in the global oceans underscores the need for careful assessment and monitoring of remaining populations. The northeastern Pacific is the home range for a genetically distinct clade of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). Little is known about the conservation status of this demographically isolated population, concentrated seasonally at two discrete aggregation sites: Central California (CCA) and Guadalupe Island, Mexico. We used photo-identification of dorsal fins in a sequential Bayesian mark-recapture algorithm to estimate white shark abundance off CCA. We collected 321 photographs identifying 130 unique individuals, and estimated the abundance off CCA to be 219 mature and sub-adult individuals ((130, 275) 95% credible intervals), substantially smaller than populations of other large marine predators. Our methods can be readily expanded to estimate shark population abundance at other locations, and over time, to monitor the status, population trends and protection needs of these globally distributed predators.
View details for DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0124
View details for Web of Science ID 000292639100030
View details for PubMedID 21389017
Advances in electronic tagging and genetic research are making it possible to discern population structure for pelagic marine predators once thought to be panmictic. However, reconciling migration patterns and gene flow to define the resolution of discrete population management units remains a major challenge, and a vital conservation priority for threatened species such as oceanic sharks. Many such species have been flagged for international protection, yet effective population assessments and management actions are hindered by lack of knowledge about the geographical extent and size of distinct populations. Combining satellite tagging, passive acoustic monitoring and genetics, we reveal how eastern Pacific white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) adhere to a highly predictable migratory cycle. Individuals persistently return to the same network of coastal hotspots following distant oceanic migrations and comprise a population genetically distinct from previously identified phylogenetic clades. We hypothesize that this strong homing behaviour has maintained the separation of a northeastern Pacific population following a historical introduction from Australia/New Zealand migrants during the Late Pleistocene. Concordance between contemporary movement and genetic divergence based on mitochondrial DNA demonstrates a demographically independent management unit not previously recognized. This population's fidelity to discrete and predictable locations offers clear population assessment, monitoring and management options.
View details for DOI 10.1098/rspb.2009.1155
View details for Web of Science ID 000273882800004
View details for PubMedID 19889703