Capstone Title

A Review of Reproductive Behavior of the Sand Tiger Shark (Carcharias taurus) with Special Emphasis on Captive Sharks at the National Aquarium, Baltimore

Defense Date

2014

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Brad Wetherbee

Second Advisor

Mahmood Shivji

Third Advisor

Alan Henningsen

Abstract

This thesis reviews reproductive behavior in sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus). Sand tigers occur in temperate coastal waters worldwide except for the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. The species exists as isolated populations with little mixing, and its population status varies from vulnerable to critically endangered, depending upon location. Sand tigers employ a unique method of embryonic development known as adelphophagy and oophagy in which the first pup to hatch inside each uterus consumes the remaining developing embryos and unfertilized egg capsules. Sand tigers migrate seasonally, with migration coupled to their reproductive cycle, and closely tied to reproductive behavior. Reproductive behavior is defined as a suite of behaviors associated with reproduction involving either or both sexes. For this review, behaviors are divided into three sub-categories: pre-copulatory, copulatory, and post-copulatory. The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland has been displaying sand tigers since the early 1980’s and has conducted multiple observations on reproductive behaviors, first from 1998-2003, and most recently from 2007-2012. Reproductive behaviors observed at the National Aquarium in Baltimore corroborate many of those seen at other institutions and also represent novel behaviors that were previously un-documented. Because of the vulnerability of sand tiger populations in the wild, understanding of their reproductive behaviors and specific requirements for promoting successful reproduction in captive animals has great potential for contributing towards enhanced recovery of sand tiger populations.

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