Ecology

Sharks Love Their Country

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Science  20 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6165, pp. 1418
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6165.1418-a
CREDIT: ALBERT KOK/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The return of individuals to the place of their birth to reproduce is called philopatry, and it occurs in many vertebrate species. Understanding the level, and details, of philopatry within a given species is important for conservation planning, particularly when it involves large, imperiled, and difficult-to-handle marine vertebrates, such as sharks. Feldheim et al. have undertaken an at-times arduous, 19-year survey of the coastal lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris, around Bimini in the Bahamas. Previous genetic data hinted that this late-maturing species shows philopatry, and this study gathered direct evidence: Six recaptured mature female sharks were all, without exception, faithful to one nursery site or the other over multiple reproductive events. Such strong local fidelity would be expected to result in some degree of population isolation at very local scales, indicating a requirement for local conservation measures to match this faithfulness.

Mol. Ecol. 10.1111/mec.12583 (2013).

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