Body condition predicts energy stores in apex predatory sharks

Austin J. Gallagher, Dominique N. Wagner, Duncan J. Irschick, Neil Hammerschlag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Animal condition typically reflects the accumulation of energy stores (e.g. fatty acids), which can influence an individual's decision to undertake challenging life-history events, such as migration and reproduction. Accordingly, researchers often use measures of animal body size and/or weight as an index of condition. However, values of condition, such as fatty acid levels, may not always reflect the physiological state of animals accurately. While the relationships between condition indices and energy stores have been explored in some species (e.g. birds), they have yet to be examined in top predatory fishes, which often undertake extensive and energetically expensive migrations. We used an apex predatory shark (Galeocerdo cuvier, the tiger shark) as a model species to evaluate the relationship between triglycerides (energy metabolite) and a metric of overall body condition. We captured, blood sampled, measured and released 28 sharks (size range 125-303 cm pre-caudal length). In the laboratory, we assayed each plasma sample for triglyceride values. We detected a positive and significant relationship between condition and triglyceride values (P < 0.02). This result may have conservation implications if the largest and highest-condition sharks are exploited in fisheries, because these individuals are likely to have the highest potential for successful reproduction. Our results suggest that researchers may use either plasma triglyceride values or an appropriate measure of body condition for assessing health in large sharks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbercou022
JournalConservation Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Condition
  • Energy
  • Movement
  • Natural selection
  • Shark
  • Trade-offs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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