Oceanographic drivers of the vertical distribution of a highly migratory, endothermic shark

Sci Rep. 2017 Sep 5;7(1):10434. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-11059-6.


Salmon sharks Lamna ditropis are highly migratory, upper trophic level predators in North Pacific ecosystems. We analysed a multi-year satellite tag dataset to investigate the habitat use of female salmon sharks across their broad range in the eastern North Pacific (NEP) and identified key environmental factors that influence vertical distribution. Salmon sharks displayed remarkable plasticity in habitat use across disparate oceanographic regions in the NEP and increased utilization of deeper waters in offshore habitats. Diel shifts in vertical distribution and behaviour were consistently observed across their range and likely reflect shifts in their foraging ecology. Salmon sharks utilized a broad thermal niche and exhibited submergence behaviour, possibly for thermal refuge, when encountering sea surface temperatures outside their preferred temperature distribution. Moreover, the vertical distribution of salmon sharks indicates they were able to exploit low dissolved oxygen environments (<1-3 ml l-1), occasionally for extended periods of time in offshore habitats. However, salmon sharks generally reduced their use of deeper waters when encountering the combination of cold temperatures (<6 °C) and low dissolved oxygen concentrations (<1-3 ml l-1). Combining vertical distribution with high-resolution horizontal movements furthers our understanding of the ecological and environmental drivers of movement across short (diel) and long-term (migratory) scales.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Ecosystem
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Oceanography
  • Sharks*
  • Temperature