Knowledge of the diel spatial ecology of wild animals is of great interest to ecologists and relevant to resource management and conservation. Sharks are generally considered to be more active during nocturnal periods than during the day; however, few studies have empirically evaluated diel variation in shark habitat use and how anthropogenic disturbances may influence these patterns. In the western central Atlantic Ocean, tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) are highly abundant in the shallow waters of the Little Bahama Bank, Bahamas. Within the northwest edge of the Bank, there is an area nicknamed “Tiger Beach,” where tiger sharks are provisioned year-round at spatially discrete ecotourism dive sites spanning ~ 1.5 km2. In this study, we used an array of acoustic receivers encircling an area of 102.4 km2 to evaluate for potential differences in diel spatial habitat use patterns for 42 tagged tiger sharks at Tiger Beach and the surrounding area. Using tracking data from 24 June 2014 to 13 May 2015, we evaluated spatial and diel patterns of shark activity space, centers of activity, residency and the daily proportion of sharks detected within the array. Sharks were detected during both day and night with no significant diel differences in habitat use metrics across the array, although spatial differences in residency existed. Four sharks accounted for 53.8% of residency data throughout the tracking period, with the majority of sharks primarily entering and exiting the array, except during summer months when the most of the tagged tiger sharks were absent from the array. We also found limited empirical support for hypothesized effects of provisioning tourism on tiger shark habitat use. However, additional research at finer, individual scales, may be needed to better resolve the potential influence of provisioning on tiger sharks at Tiger Beach.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Diel, Habitat use, Movement, Nocturnal, Shark, Tourism
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2017.05.010
Journal Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Citation
Hammerschlag, N., Gutowsky, L.F.G., Gallagher, A.J., Matich, P., & Cooke, S.J. (2017). Diel habitat use patterns of a marine apex predator (tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier) at a high use area exposed to dive tourism. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 495, 24–34. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2017.05.010