Predictable temperature-regulated residency, movement and migration in a large, highly mobile marine predator (Negaprion brevirostris)

S. T. Kessel, D. D. Chapman, B. R. Franks, T. Gedamke, S. H. Gruber, J. M. Newman, E. R. White, R. G. Perkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Understanding how and why animals are distributed through time and space has always been a fundamental component of ecology and is an essential prerequisite for effective conservation and/or management. However, for highly mobile K-selected species, behavioural predictability is rarely considered over appropriate scales relative to life history. To address this point, a multidisciplinary approach combining telemetry, external tagging, physical assessment, environmental monitoring and genetic analysis was adopted to determine a spatial framework for the movements of adult lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris at multiple spatial and temporal scales from 2007 to 2011. Lemon sharks (n = 83) were tracked with passive acoustic telemetry, revealing a winter residency in the southeast Florida region. Detections from individuals recorded within the core winter habitat for >20 d (n = 56) were incorporated into generalized linear mixedeffects models to investigate the influence of water temperature, photoperiod, moon phase, month and year on presence. The findings of this study suggest a temperature driven 'migrationresidency' model for mature lemon shark distribution across the USA eastern seaboard. Lemon sharks are distributed across a wide geographical area in the summer months and migrate south concentrating off southeast Florida in the winter, with this pattern repeated each year. From comparative genetic analysis and the absence of any evidence of mating behaviour during the winter residency period, mating and parturition most probably occur in May/June between northern Florida and the Carolinas. This study highlights the importance of determining the specific dynamics and proximate causes of animal movement and distribution over appropriate spatial and temporal scales relative to life history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-190
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Acoustic telemetry
  • GLMM
  • Lemon shark
  • Seasonal migration
  • Seasonal residency
  • Temperature preference


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