Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 6, pp 1011–1023 | Cite as

Diel movements of the blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) in a Caribbean nursery

  • Bryan Legare
  • Gregory Skomal
  • Bryan DeAngelis


The blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) is a common coastal species in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. To examine the fine-scale movement ecology of this species in a Caribbean nursery, 17 neonate blacktip sharks were acoustically tagged in May, 2012 and tracked for one year in Coral Bay, St John, USVI. By quantifying linear movement and shifts in position from a fixed Inner harbor location, we identified a diel movement pattern where blacktip sharks spend daylight hours within core habitat of Inner Coral Harbor and move each night to the central and outer portions of the Bay, a linear shift of 174–934 m. When compared to standard home range calculations applied to the overall movement data, these nightly positions were outside of the 95% activity space and, therefore, undetected using traditional space utilization methods, despite their predictable daily occurrence. Cluster analysis and nonmetric multidimensional scaling indicated distinct movement periods and locations: daytime (sun up) within Inner Coral Harbor; nighttime (sun down) in the center of the Bay; and brief periods approximately six hours after sunset at the mouth of the Bay. This diel shift in habitat use is likely associated with nocturnal foraging because it coincides with similar shifts in potential prey species. Habitat and resource management that incorporates the blacktip shark movements described herein is critical to the protection of these vulnerable life stages. The findings of this paper advance the understanding of blacktip shark behavior and acoustic telemetry experimental design.


Blacktip shark Acoustic telemetry Nocturnal movement Migration Nursery habitat 



This research was supported by funding from grants from the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant (Project No. R-31-1-10), Peter and Carol Bouyoucos, and Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration. We thank the following: Ron Hill and Jennifer Doerr (NMFS, Galveston, TX) for sharing acoustic equipment and data; Sharon Coldren and the Coral Bay Community Council for support and logistics; Phil Strenger (R/V GEV) for vessel time and local expertise; Maho Bay Camps, Inc. for housing; Randy Brown, Randy Fish, and Jamie Irving of the Virgin Islands Environmental Research Station for the use of their equipment and field logistics; Dr. Richard Nemeth (University of the Virgin Islands) and Megan Winton for comments during development of this analysis; and Ian Bouyoucos for field assistance. This is UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Studies Contribution Number 188 and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Contribution Number 96.

At the time this field work (animal handling) was performed, the University of the Virgin Islands did not have an Animal Welfare Committee and an institutional permit was not required. Rather, all animal handling procedures were conducted using guidelines established by the American Fisheries Society and American Society of Ichthyology and Herpetology, and all efforts were made to minimize animal stress and suffering. Surgical procedures were approved by the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine and Environmental Science policies and guidelines. Permission to capture fish and conduct experiments including tagging and tracking inside waters managed by the Department of Planning and natural Resources fell under PERMIT NO. STT 025-11.

Supplementary material

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Supplemental Fig. 1

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Supplemental Table 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bryan Legare
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gregory Skomal
    • 3
  • Bryan DeAngelis
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Marine and Environmental ScienceUniversity of the Virgin IslandsSt Thomas VIVirgin Islands (U.S.)
  2. 2.Center for Coastal StudiesProvincetownUSA
  3. 3.Massachusetts Marine FisheriesNew BedfordUSA
  4. 4.The Nature Conservancy, North America Oceans and CoastsNarragansettUSA

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