Age and growth of juvenile lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) at an insular nursery in the southern Caribbean

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During the first few years of life, lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) occupy discrete nursery areas in small numbers (<100). Biotic and abiotic features vary among nursery areas, resulting in young sharks experiencing a range of physical and biological conditions that, in turn, influence life-history characteristics such as growth and mortality and are, therefore, directly related to population structure and ability to withstand fishing pressure. In the present study, we used tag and recapture data to estimate growth rates and construct size at age models for lemon sharks at Los Roques, Venezuela. Annual growth rates of lemon sharks were comparable to those in other nursery areas, but considerably higher than those reported for the well studied nursery at Bimini, Bahamas. Growth rate increased with age during the first 4 years of life for lemon sharks at Los Roques, while they occupied the nursery area. Comparison of growth rates of lemon sharks among geographically separate nursery areas showed no obvious relationships between growth rate and latitude or temperature. For species with broad geographical distributions, consideration of variability of life-history characteristics such as growth is important for accurate stock assessment and effective large-scale management of populations.

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Marine and Freshwater Research