First results from satellite-linked archival tagging of porbeagle shark, Lamna nasus: area fidelity, wider-scale movements and plasticity in diel depth changes

Nicolas G. Pade, Nuno Queiroz, Nicolas E. Humphries, Matthew J. Witt, Catherine S. Jones, Leslie R. Noble, David W. Sims* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the habitat preferences of large marine vertebrates has only recently become tractable with the widespread availability of satellite telemetry for monitoring movements and behaviour. For many species with low population abundances, however, little progress has been made in identifying space use patterns. The endothermic porbeagle shark, Lamna nasus, has declined in the North Atlantic due to severe fishing pressure, with little evidence of recovery. One potential factor exacerbating population decline is area fidelity to coastal waters where fisheries are intensive. We tested for short-term area fidelity by attaching pop-up satellite-linked archival transmitters to four porbeagles in summer 2007, resulting in 175 days total tracking time covering an estimated 10,256 km distance. Throughout July and August the sharks occupied localised areas (8,602 - 90,153 km(2)) within the Celtic Sea, between the south-west UK, south-west Wales and southern Ireland. Only one shark was tracked into the autumn, when it moved into deep water off the continental shelf, then north towards colder latitudes. Sharks occupied a broad vertical depth range (0 - 552 m) and water temperatures (9 degrees - 19 degrees C). Dives were made frequently from the surface to near the seabed in shelf areas, however, in shelf edge habitats extended periods of time were spent at depths >300 m. Porbeagles showed considerable plasticity in diel depth changes within and between individuals and as a function of habitat type. In addition to no obvious day-night difference in depth occupation, some sharks showed reverse diel vertical migration (DVM) (dawn ascent - dusk descent) in well-mixed coastal waters whereas normal DVM (dawn descent - dusk ascent) characterised movements into deeper, thermally well-stratified waters. The variable behaviours may reflect the need for different search strategies depending on habitat and prey types encountered. These results show porbeagles are potentially vulnerable to fisheries throughout the summer when they aggregate, and that large scale movement across national boundaries identifies the need for international conservation measures. (C) 2008 Published by Elsevier B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1-2
Early online date15 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009

Bibliographical note

This research was facilitated through the European Tracking of Predators in the Atlantic (EUTOPIA) programme in the European Census of Marine Life (EuroCoML). The authors thank R. Peirce, K. Bennett, and the 2007 field season participants for facilitating tagging. NGP was supported by a University of Aberdeen Scholarship and PADI Aware provided additional funding. NQ was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) grant SFRH/BD/21354/2005. DWS and a part of this research was supported through the Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA) component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Oceans 2025 Strategic Research Programme (Theme 6 Science for Sustainable Marine Resources). DWS was also supported by an MBA Senior Research Fellowship.


  • behaviour
  • endothermy
  • fish
  • habitat use
  • niche expansion
  • spatial ecology
  • vertical migration
  • southern California bight
  • western north-Atlantic
  • basking sharks
  • dermochelys-coriacea
  • leatherback turtles
  • isurus-oxyrinchus
  • forgaing behavior
  • prionace-glauca
  • British-Isles


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