What drives sociality in marine predators?
For some time now we have known that sharks are capable of having social preferences for other group mates. The mechanisms dictating social networks and the longevity of social bonds however, are still relatively mysterious. Using long-term acoustic tracking data on grey reef sharks at Palmyra Atoll in the Central Pacific Ocean, we have been exploring what drives social behaviour in marine predators. Furthermore, wide-ranging predators like sharks can act as important nutrient vectors so their space use and movement patterns can have a direct impact on the health of the reef ecosystem. This work is part of a long-term collaborative partnership with the Predator Ecology and Conservation Lab at Florida International University in the US.
The group is also working on related questions in other systems, including the impact of ecotourism provisioning on tiger shark social structure with Dr Neil Hammerschlag at the University of Miami, as well as conceptual work with Drs Johann Mourier and David Villegas-Ríos. Here is a link to our recent Research Topic in Frontiers in Marine Science that will explore Sociality in Marine Environment more broadly.
The causes and consequences of reef shark social behaviour - led by David Jacoby & Yannis Papastamatiou
Social network analysis and ecotourism of tiger sharks in the Bahamas - led by David Jacoby and Bethany Fairbairn
Determining the ecology of a critically endangered flatshark required a novel tagging system
Once abundant in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean but now limited to reliable sightings in just The Canary Islands, very little is known about the ecology and habitat use of the angelshark (Squatina squatina). Teaming up with partners at the Angel Shark Project and engineers at Inštitutu IRNAS in Solvenia, we developed and tested a harness and applicator to enable the tagging of wild (resting) angelsharks so as to avoid catching them. We have deployed a small acoustic array of 11 receivers within the La Garciosa Marine Reserve, north of Lanzarote in The Canary Islands. This project should reveal for the first time long-term patterns of space use and seasonal movements in this species which is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. These behavioural data will be important for informing the long-term conservation of angelsharks and the lobbying of the Spanish Government to protect these sharks.
This project has been generously supported by the National Geographic, Oceanário de Lisboa, the Save Our Seas Foundation, the Shark Conservation Fund, the Arribada Initiative and WWF Netherlands. Look out for a PhD being offered on this project shortly!
Engineering a solution to track Critically Endangered Angelsharks (Squatina squatina) - led by Lucy Mead and David Jacoby