Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 4, pp 1455–1461 | Cite as

Long-term movements of tiger sharks satellite-tagged in Shark Bay, Western Australia

  • Michael R. HeithausEmail author
  • Aaron J. Wirsing
  • Lawrence M. Dill
  • Linda I. Heithaus
Research Article


Tiger sharks are important predators in the seagrass ecosystem of Shark Bay, Australia. Although sharks appear to return to a long-term study site within the Eastern Gulf periodically, the extent of their long-term movements is not known. Five sharks fitted with satellite transmitters showed variable movement patterns. Three sharks remained within the Shark Bay region and another made a 500 km round-trip excursion to oceanic waters northwest of the bay. These four sharks showed relatively low displacement rates relative to sharks tracked over shorter time periods, suggesting that sharks move through large home ranges that include Shark Bay. Although no reliable position fixes were obtained for the fifth shark, we were able to use the timing of satellite uplinks and the position of the satellite to determine that it had moved at least 8,000 km to the coastal waters of southeast Africa in 99 days—the longest recorded movement by a tiger shark. This movement and previously documented trans-Atlantic movements suggest that tiger shark populations may mix across ocean basins and that tiger sharks are subject to anthropogenic effects at great distances from protected waters. Finally, our method for using single satellite uplinks may be useful in estimating movements for wide-ranging species that rarely provide high quality location estimates.


Swimming Speed Location Class Syntactic Foam White Shark Satellite Telemetry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Special thanks to Graeme Hays, who suggested how we could make use of poor-quality position data. Support for this project was provided by Florida International University and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0526065. The Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort and Fisheries WA provided logistical support and Greg Marshall and the National Geographic Remote Imaging Department provided a satellite tag for this study. We wish to acknowledge use of the Maptool program for analysis and graphics in this paper. Maptool is a product of SEATURTLE.ORG (information available at This study was conducted under Department of Conservation and Land Management permits SF002347 and NE001808 and renewals, Fisheries WA Permit 8/01, and Florida International University IACUC authorization. This is contribution 22 of the Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project.


  1. Argos (1996) Users manual. CLS/Service Argos, ToulouseGoogle Scholar
  2. Baum JK, Myers RA (2004) Shifting baselines and the decline of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. Ecol Lett 7:135–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baum JK, Myers RA, Kehler DG, Worm B, Harley SJ, Doherty PA (2003) Collapse and conservation of shark populations in the Northwest Atlantic. Science 299:389–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonfil R, Meÿer M, Scholl MC, Johnson R, O’Brien S, Oosthuizen H, Swanson S, Kotze D, Paterson M (2005) Transoceanic migration, spatial dynamics, and population linkages of white sharks. Science 310:100–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dill LM, Heithaus MR, Walters CJ (2003) Behaviorally-mediated indirect interactions in marine communities and their conservation and implications. Ecology 84:1151–1157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gales N, McCauley RD, Lanyon J, Holley D (2004) Change in abundance of dugongs in Shark Bay, Ningaloo and Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia: evidence for large-scale migration. Wildl Res 31:283–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hays GC, Akesson S, Godley BJ, Luschi P, Santidrian P (2001a) The implications of location accuracy for the interpretation of satellite-tracking data. Anim Behav 61:1035–1040CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hays GC, Broderick AC, Glen F, Godley BJ, Nichols WJ (2001b) The movements and submergence behavior of male green turtles at Ascension Island. Mar Biol 139:395–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hays GC, Webb PI, Hayes JP, Priede IG, French J (1991) Satellite tracking of a loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 71:743–746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Heithaus MR (2001) The biology of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) in Shark Bay, Western Australia: sex ratio, size distribution, diet, and seasonal changes in catch rates. Environ Biol Fish 61:25–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Heithaus MR (2004) Predator–prey interactions. In: Carrier JC, Musick J, Heithaus MR (eds) The biology of sharks, skates, and rays. CRC, Boca Raton, pp 487–521Google Scholar
  12. Heithaus MR (2005) Habitat use and group size of pied cormorants (Phalacrocorax varius) in a seagrass ecosystem: possible effects of food abundance and predation risk. Mar Biol 147:27–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heithaus MR, Dill LM (2002) Food availability and tiger shark predation risk influence bottlenose dolphin habitat use. Ecology 83:480–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Heithaus MR, Dill LM (2006) Does tiger shark predation risk influence foraging habitat use by bottlenose dolphins at multiple spatial scales? Oikos 114:257–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heithaus MR, Dill LM, Marshall GJ, Buhleier B (2002) Habitat use and foraging behavior of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) in a seagrass ecosystem. Mar Biol 140:237–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heithaus MR, Hamilton IM, Wirsing AJ, Dill LM (2006) Validation of a randomization procedure to assess animal habitat preferences: microhabitat use of tiger sharks in a seagrass ecosystem. J Anim Ecol 75:666–676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heithaus MR, Marshall G, Buhleier B, Dill LM (2001). Employing Crittercam to study the behavior and habitat use of large sharks. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 209:307–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Holland KN, Wetherbee BW, Lowe CG, Meyer CG (1999) Movements of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) in coastal Hawaiian waters. Mar Biol 134:665–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kohler NE, Natanson LJ, Pratt HL Jr, Turner PA, Briggs R (1999) The shark tagger-1998 annual summary. National Marine Fisheries Service. 20 pGoogle Scholar
  20. McMahon CR, Hays GC (2006) Thermal niche, large-scale movements and implications of climate change for a critically endangered marine vertebrate. Global Change Biol 12:1330–1338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Weng KC, Castilho PC, Morissette JM, Landeira-Fernandez AM, Holts DB, Schallert RJ, Goldman KJ, Block BA (2005) Satellite tagging and cardiac physiology reveal niche expansion in salmon sharks. Science 310:104–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Wirsing AJ (2005) Predation-sensitive foraging behaviour of dugongs (Dugong dugon). PhD Thesis, Simon Fraser University, BurnabyGoogle Scholar
  23. Wirsing AJ, Heithaus MR, Dill LM (2006) Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) abundance and growth rates in a subtropical embayment: evidence from seven years of standardized fishing effort. Mar Biol 149:961–968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Wirsing AJ, Heithaus MR, Dill LM (2007) Dugongs prefer foraging microhabitats allowing for escape rather than encounter avoidance when predators are abundant. Anim Behav (in press)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael R. Heithaus
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Aaron J. Wirsing
    • 1
    • 3
  • Lawrence M. Dill
    • 3
  • Linda I. Heithaus
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesFlorida International UniversityNorth MiamiUSA
  2. 2.Center for Shark ResearchMote Marine LaboratorySarasotaUSA
  3. 3.Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Biological SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

Personalised recommendations