Multi-year movements of adult and subadult bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas): philopatry, connectivity, and environmental influences

Mitchell J. Rider, Laura H. McDonnell, Neil Hammerschlag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Understanding the movement ecology of marine species is important for conservation management and monitoring their responses to environmental change. In this study, adult and subadult bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas; n = 16) were acoustically tagged in Biscayne Bay, Florida (USA), where they were tracked locally via an array of 40 passive acoustic receivers, as well as regionally via cooperative acoustic telemetry networks, with individuals tracked up to 4.5 years. Detection data were used to assess philopatry, regional connectivity, and environmental correlates of shark habitat use. Spatial range varied per individual; however, most individuals displayed high residency to Biscayne Bay, exhibiting strong philopatric behavior to the tagging area. A generalized linear mixed model revealed a seasonal pattern in habitat use, with mature females displaying high residency in Biscayne Bay during the colder dry season (November to February) and lower residencies during the warmer wet season (June to October). These seasonal patterns were supported by catch data from long-term fishery-independent shark surveys in the study area. During summer months when residencies of C. leucas declined in Biscayne Bay, their residencies increased in other regions (e.g., Florida Gulf Coast), demonstrative of seasonal migrations. Connectivity between areas of high use (Biscayne Bay and Florida Gulf Coast) was demonstrated by some individuals traveling between these areas. Results from generalized additive mixed models suggest that these movement patterns could be partially driven by seasonal changes in environmental variables as well as an individual’s life stage, including reproductive status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-577
Number of pages19
JournalAquatic Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Acoustic telemetry
  • Carcharhinus leucas
  • Highly migratory species
  • Movement ecology
  • Philopatry
  • Tracking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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