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Use of a hydrodynamic model to examine behavioral response of broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) to estuarine tidal flow


Innovative telemetry and biologging technology has increased the amount of available movement data on aquatic species. However, real-time information on the environmental factors influencing animal movements can be logistically challenging to obtain, particularly in habitats where tides and currents vary locally. Hydrodynamic models are capable of simulating complex tidal flow, and may thus offer an alternative method of contextualizing animal movement in coastal habitats. Here we use this tool to examine the influence of tide on the movement of broadnose sevengill sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) in the San Francisco Bay estuary. Three sharks were actively tracked using acoustic transmitters for 3 to 4 days. We then generated a hydrodynamic model of the estuary and calculated current vectors along each track. We hypothesized that the sharks would adjust their swimming speed and direction depending on current strength when passing through the channel underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Our results indicate that sharks did tend to follow the current flow in the channel, but their overall displacement did not significantly correlate with tidal amplitude. We conclude that the sharks may respond to environmental factors other than tidal flow, altering their movement at a finer scale than initially considered. Overall, this suggests that hydrodynamic simulation models can be used to visualize and quantify environmental factors that may affect movement patterns in aquatic organisms. We recommend future studies combine these models with other biologging techniques to measure energy expenditure at a finer spatial scale.

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