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Biological Sciences


Sharks face a number of obstacles for surviving their first several years of life and many species occupy nursery areas. Although estimates of survival, particularly for young age classes, are essential for assessing, monitoring and effectively managing animal populations, there have been relatively few calculations of survival within shark populations and even fewer estimates based on direct methods for sharks on their nursery grounds. We used tag-recapture methods to estimate the population size and survival of juvenile lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) on their nursery grounds at Atol das Rocas, a marine protected area in Brazil. Sharks were sampled from1999 to 2003. Population size estimates ranged from 12 to 100 juvenile sharks and survival estimates ranged between 24-54% with a mean of 44.6% over the most robust sampling periods. The population of juvenile lemon sharks declined over the course of our study, whereas survival rates may have increased over the same time period. Even a modest level of fishing and removal of mature females in adjacent areas may dramatically affect small populations of sharks within a small and isolated nursery such as Atol das Rocas. The lower survival rates and population size at Atol das Rocas could be the result of differences in physical characteristics of this nursery in comparison to others used by lemon sharks in the northwestern Atlantic. Such comparatively lower populational parameters suggest that the population of young lemon sharks is fragile at the Atol das Rocas nursery.

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