Animal migrations are among nature’s most spectacular and biologically significant phenomena. Movement and migration behavior of individuals can reveal key ecological characteristics and population dynamics of a species. In an evolutionary context, the ability to move determines the genetic structure of geographically separated populations. Movement rates will determine colonization patterns of new habitats, the resiliency of populations to harvest, and the effectiveness of spatial management options designed to reverse declines in ocean biodiversity and marine-capture fisheries. The importance of an understanding of migration and connectivity is particularly timely as organisms are faced with adapting to global climate change. Yet, very little is known about the population connectivity and movement patterns of large pelagic fishes that comprise a large portion of marine megafauna. We have been using pop-up satellite archival tags (PSAT), acoustic tags, and microsatellite genetic techniques to examine migration behavior of whale sharks, white sharks, basking sharks, manta rays, and devil rays worldwide. We are currently working in the North Atlantic (Cape Cod, the Azores), Equatorial Pacific (Phoenix Islands), and the Red Sea. We are working to better understand the patterns and drivers of the amazing migration patterns of some of the ocean’s largest and most threatened species. These data will in turn provide scientific support for the conservation and sustainable management of these threatened populations.
Primary Collaborators: Dr. Simon R. Thorrold (WHOI); Dr. Michael Berumen (KAUST); Dr. Gregory B. Skomal (Mass Div. of Marine Fisheries); Dr. Pedro Afonos (Universidade de Azores); Dr. Jorge Fontes (Universidade de Azores)
Skomal GB, Zeeman SI, Chisholm JH, Summers EL, Walsh HJ, McMahon KW, Thorrold SR. (2009) Mesopelagic trans-equatorial migrations by basking sharks in the western Atlantic Ocean. Current Biology 19:1019-1022
Thorrold SR, Afonso P, Fontes JMR, Braun CD, Skomal GB, and Berumen ML (2014) Extreme diving behavior in devil rays link surface waters and the deep ocean. Nature Comm. 5: DOIi: 10.1038/10.1038/ncomms5274
Braun CD, Skomal GB, Thorrold SR, and Berumen ML (2014) Diving behavior of the reef manta ray links coral reefs with adjacent deep pelagic habitats. PLoS ONE 9: e88170. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088170