Nocturnal and crepuscular behavior in elasmobranchs: A review of movement, habitat use, foraging, and reproduction in the dark

N. Hammerschlag, R. A. Skubel, H. Calich, E. R. Nelson, D. S. Shiffman, J. Wester, C. C. Macdonald, S. Cain, L. Jennings, A. Enchelmaier, A. J. Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


It is commonly assumed that elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays) are most active during dark periods (dawn, dusk, night). However, this assertion has not been critically evaluated. It is also unclear whether dark periods are primarily utilized for the performance of important lifehistory events, such as mating. If this were the case, low-light periods would be of signifcance to elasmobranch conservation as some anthropogenic activities (night fshing, lighting) could disproportionately impact ftness of species that are more active in the dark. Here, we review and summarize previous studies on elasmobranch behavior during nocturnal and crepuscular periods focusing on patterns of movement, habitat use, foraging, and reproduction. A review of 166 studies provided mixed results for widely-assumed increased elasmobranch activity when dark. Frequency of foraging and horizontal movement (distance travelled, activity space) were reported as greater only during crepuscular periods in the majority (>50%) of reviewed studies (28 of 43 and 78 of 125 studies, respectively), a pattern not evident during night. No pervasive patterns emerged for increased habitat use or reproductive behaviors during dark. We did not fnd any particular habitat type consistently supporting increased activity during dark, nor did we fnd evidence that higher trophic level elasmobranchs were more active when dark. Tus, generalizations about increased elasmobranch activity during dark periods are currently not supported. While research on the behavior of elasmobranchs during dark periods has been increasing, many knowledge gaps remain and we present a set of research priorities to assist in the development of future investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-374
Number of pages20
JournalBulletin of Marine Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Nocturnal and crepuscular behavior in elasmobranchs: A review of movement, habitat use, foraging, and reproduction in the dark'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this