Diverse habitats shape the movement ecology of a top marine predator, the white shark Carcharodon carcharias

Oliver Jewell, Taylor K. Chapple, Salvador J. Jorgensen, Paul E. Kanive, Jerry H. Moxley, James R. Tweedley, Scot D. Anderson, Barbara A. Block, Adrian C. Gleiss

Research output: Working paperPreprint


An animal’s movement is influenced by a plethora of internal and external factors, leading to individual- and habitat-specific movement characteristics. This plasticity is thought to allow individuals to exploit diverse environments efficiently. We tested if the movement characteristics of white sharks Carcharodon carcharias differ across ontogeny and among habitats along the coast of Central California. In doing so, we elucidate how changes in internal state (physiological changes coinciding with body size) and external environments (differing seascapes and/or diel phases) shape the movement of this globally distributed predator. White sharks, from small juveniles to large adults, were equipped with motion-sensitive biologging tags at four contrasting seascapes: two islands, a headland, and an inshore cove. From multi-sensor biologging data, 20 metrics characterising movement were derived and subjected to multivariate analyses. Movement characteristics were most different across seascapes, followed by ontogeny and diel phase. Juvenile sharks, that were only encountered at the cove, displayed the most distinct movement characteristics. Sharks at this seascape remained close to the shore and were comparatively less active than sub-adult and adult sharks tagged elsewhere. Distinct night-time movements and dive patterns were recorded from sharks at an island seascape but not from those at the headland or inshore cove. The availability of prey and access to deeper water are likely drivers, with greater numbers of Northern elephant seals Mirounga angustirostris at the island seascapes and harbour seals Phoca vitulina at the headland seascape, while the offshore island group is also closer to the continental shelf edge. Juvenile sharks at the inshore cove are piscivorous and their habitat was not adjacent to pinniped haul out areas nor deeper water. This study demonstrates plasticity in the movements of a top predator, that adapts its routine to suit the habitat it forages within.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 8 May 2023


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