Biology Faculty Articles

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Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research


elasmobranch, managed care, precopulatory behaviour, reproduction







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Understanding reproductive behaviours and the environmental conditions that facilitate reproduction is important for successful reproduction in managed care. Complex reproductive behaviours have been observed in both aquarium and free-ranging elasmobranchs. Sexual conflicts, including pre-copulatory behaviours in sand tiger sharks Carcharias taurus in managed care have been previously documented. This study reports observations that corroborate the previous accounts of reproductive behaviours as well as describing novel consexual conflicts between males and detailing the male dominance hierarchy in six sand tigers at the National Aquarium. The observations suggest that male behaviours are not strictly pre-copulatory, as consexual male conflicts occurred to the exclusion of attempted copulation, and in the absence of females. Physical separation of either the dominant or most subordinate male decreased the occurrence of sexual conflicts, suggesting that these individuals are the key sharks in hierarchical settings and that conflicts among sand tigers are not strictly related to reproduction, but may be driven by social, physiological, olfactory and/or electrosensory cues.


This work would not have been possible without the assistance of the Animal Care and Welfare, Animal Health, and Volunteer Departments at the National Aquarium. Thanks are due to Josh Carr for organising data and to Nicole Castagana for additional observations. In addition, we thank Andreas Fischer, Nino Kinnunen, Rod Garner, Cathy Zoller, Frank Murru, Gary Violetta, Joe Choromanski, Tara Hodge, Frank Bulman, Linelle Smith, Beth Firchau, Cheryl Nicholson and Hans Walters, for invaluable information on observations in sand tiger sharks at other institutions. Illustrations are credited to Karen Bucher, Department of Art as Applied to Medicine, Johns Hopkins University. This work was part of a M.Sc. thesis by Elizabeth Schneble (Claus).





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