Shark pups lose gains in stressed environments

phys.org | 9/12/2019 | Staff
cv2angels (Posted by) Level 3
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The reef study area in St Joseph. Credit: Ryan Daly at Save Our Seas Foundation.

A prominent JCU shark researcher is part of an international team that found shark babies can't reach their physical peak if they're born into environments degraded by human-induced stressors, including climate change.

Dr - Jodie - Rummer - ARC - Centre

Dr. Jodie Rummer from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (Coral CoE at JCU) is a co-author of a new study that compared the foraging and condition of two populations of newborn reef sharks: one in St Joseph atoll in Seychelles and the other in Moorea, French Polynesia.

"We found that although shark pups are born larger, heavier and better conditioned in Moorea, they soon lost their physical advantage over the pups in St Joseph," Dr. Rummer said.

St - Joseph - Atoll - Outer - Islands

St Joseph is an uninhabited, remote and small atoll in the outer islands of Seychelles, where no environmental changes happened at the time of the study. However, Moorea is a popular tourist destination—one that is still recovering from a loss of up to 95 percent of its live coral cover about five years before the four-year study commenced.

"At birth, newborn sharks receive extra fat reserves from their mother," said Ms Ornella Weideli, lead author from the Save Our Seas Foundation D'Arros Research Centre (SOSF-DRC) and Ph.D. student at the Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l'Environnement (CRIOBE) in France.

Energy - Reserves - Days - Weeks - Birth

"These energy reserves sustain them during the first days and weeks after birth," Ms Weideli said. "The 'energy boost' is important, as sharks are independent from their mothers from the moment they are born."

A total of 546 young sharks were captured and measured in that time. What they ate was also analysed. The study found the amount of energy reserves varied between locations.

Mothers - Birth - Babies

"Bigger mothers give birth to bigger babies,...
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