Two decades of genetic profiling yields first evidence of natal philopatry and long-term fidelity to parturition sites in sharks

Kevin Andrew Feldheim, Samuel H. Gruber, Joseph DiBattista, Elizabeth A. Babcock, Steven T. Kessel, Andrew P. Hendry, Ellen K. Pikitch, Mary V. Ashley, Demian D F Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Sharks are a globally threatened group of marine fishes that often breed in their natal region of origin. There has even been speculation that female sharks return to their exact birthplace to breed ('natal philopatry'), which would have important conservation implications. Genetic profiling of lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) from 20 consecutive cohorts (1993-2012) at Bimini, Bahamas, showed that certain females faithfully gave birth at this site for nearly two decades. At least six females born in the 1993-1997 cohorts returned to give birth 14-17 years later, providing the first direct evidence of natal philopatry in the chondrichthyans. Long-term fidelity to specific nursery sites coupled with natal philopatry highlights the merits of emerging spatial and local conservation efforts for these threatened predators. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-117
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 9 2013

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Biological Oceanography Program under grants OCE-0623283 to S. H. G. and K. A. F. and OCE 97-12793 to S. H. G. and M. V. A., by a grant to D. D. C. from The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Bimini Biological Field Station. Genetic data were collected in the Field Museum's Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution operated with support from the Pritzker Foundation. We thank Microwave Telemetry for donating a satellite tag to the project as well as The Moore Bahamas Foundation for supporting the surveying of potential lemon shark nursery areas at islands adjacent to Bimini. We are grateful to the numerous staff and volunteers that aided in field collections, especially the laboratory managers and principal investigators at the Bimini Biological Field Station over the period 1995-2012. We thank M. Braynen, Director of the Bahamas Department of Fisheries, for issuing a scientific permit in support of our research.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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