Long-term individual identification and site fidelity of white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, off California using dorsal fins
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Mark-recapture techniques can be used to estimate white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) population abundance. These frameworks are based on assumptions that marks are conserved and animals are present at the sampling location over the entire duration of the study. Though these assumptions have been validated across short-time scales for white sharks, long-term studies of population trends are dependent on these assumptions being valid across longer periods. We use 22 years of photographic data from aggregation sites in central California to support the use of dorsal fin morphology as long-term individual identifiers. We identified five individuals over 16–22 years, which support the use of dorsal fins as long-time individual identifiers, illustrate strong yearly site fidelity to coastal aggregation sites across extended time periods (decades), and provide the first empirical validation of white shark longevity >22 years. These findings support the use of fin morphology in mark-recapture frameworks for white sharks.
KeywordsSite Fidelity White Shark Secondary Characteristic Pigmentation Pattern Individual Identifier
We thank J. Cornelius, M. Peterson, R. Elliot, P. Kanive, J. Barlow, K & C Chapple, L. Lamas, and B Cornapple for assistance with fieldwork, laboratory work, data processing, and editing. We are grateful to S. McAfee, J. Fitzgerald, S. Neil, B. Becker, R Theiss, E. Homer, and crew of the R.S.V. Derek M. Bayliss for vessel and logistical assistance. This project was funded by PEMREM, NOAA-Seagrant, the Sloan, Moore and Packard Foundations as a part of the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) program of the Census of Marine Life. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation, Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center, Patricia King and Bodega Marine Laboratory inter-campus travel grants also provided financial support. The project was conducted with permits from CDFG, MBNMS, GFNMS, NOAA, NPS and under University of California, Davis animal care protocol 15024 and Stanford University animal care protocol 10765.
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