Using historical and citizen science data to improve knowledge about the occurrence of the elusive sandbar shark Carcharhinus plumbeus (Chondrichthyes - Carcharhinidae) in the Adriatic Sea

Mediterr Mar Sci. 2021;22(1):169-179. doi: 10.12681/mms.24624.


The Mediterranean Sea is an extinction hotspot for sharks, skates, and rays, with at least half of all species being threatened. The sandbar shark Carcharhinus plumbeus is among the most threatened species and is declared endangered (EN) in the Mediterranean according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Adriatic Sea was previously proposed to be an important nursery area for this species based on sporadic sightings of neonates and juveniles. However, this species is generally considered to be rare in this region, and reports of its presence are scarce. Here, we present new records for the sandbar shark in the Adriatic Sea and review spatial and temporal data accumulated from literature, museum specimens, and citizen science initiatives in an attempt to assess the distribution and seasonality of this species. The majority of the records were from neonate and juvenile sandbar sharks, and three hotspots for their occurrence could be identified: (1) the Emilia-Romagna region, (2) the Veneto region, and (3) the Gulf of Trieste. Our data indicate a high concentration of sandbar sharks around the delta of the Po river, emphasising the need for scientific surveys in this confined area in order to confirm a possible nursery ground. Data collected by citizen science initiatives reveal that this species is still present in the Adriatic Sea and might be more abundant than previously thought, underlining the potential of citizen science as a valuable tool to monitor the distribution of rare and endangered species.

Keywords: Elasmobranchii; Estuaries; Mediterranean Sea; Migration; Neonates; Parturition.