Morphological scaling of body form in four shark species differing in ecology and life history

Duncan J. Irschick, Neil Hammerschlag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Body form can change across ontogeny, and can influence how animals of different sizes move and feed. Scaling data on live apex predatory sharks are rare and, therefore, we examined patterns of scaling in ontogenetic series of four sympatric shark species exhibiting a range of sizes, ecologies and life histories (tiger, bull, blacktip, and nurse shark). We evaluated 13 linear morphological variables and two areas (caudal and dorsal) that could influence both animal condition and locomotor performance. These measurements included dimensions of the dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fins, as well as several dimensions of body circumference, and of the head. For all four species, the body axis (eye-to-eye, lateral span, frontal span, proximal span) scaled close to isometry (expected slope of 1.0). The two largest sharks (tiger and bull sharks) also showed significant negative allometry for elements of the caudal fin. We found significant negative allometry in the lengths of the upper lobe of the caudal fin (caudal fin 1) and the overall height of the caudal fin (caudal fin 2) in tiger and bull sharks, with slopes ranging from about 0.60 to 0.73. Further, tiger sharks showed negative allometry in caudal fin area. These results suggest that in terms of overall body dimensions, small sharks are roughly geometrically similar to large sharks, at least within the species we examined. However, juvenile tiger (and to a lesser extent bull sharks) are notable in having proportionately larger caudal fins compared to adult sharks. As the caudal fin contributes to generating thrust during forward locomotion, this scaling implies differences among adult and juvenile sharks in locomotor ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-135
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Allometry, locomotion
  • Body form
  • Morphology
  • Movement
  • Scaling
  • Sharks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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