Member Highlight: New Study Shows Increased Bull Shark Presence In Estuary

2018-04-30T12:41:36+00:00 April 30, 2018|
(Credit: Gavin Parsons)

(Credit: Gavin Parsons)

Since the blockbuster movie “Jaws” hit the big screen in 1975, the thought of what lurks beneath the water has impacted many swimmers. 

(From Washington Daily News/ By Vail Stewart Rumley) — According to research released by a team of scientists from East Carolina University, North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, it turns out there’s plenty, and the population of bull sharks in the Pamlico Sound, and the potentially the river, is growing.

Bull sharks reach up to 10 ½ feet in length; their prey is large. Their presence has been recorded in the Pamlico Sound for decades, but what’s changed is that their numbers are growing, leading researchers to believe that what was once a waterbody incompatible with breeding is now compatible because of climate change.

“What we see in Pamlico Sound appears to be a threshold response, where gradually increasing water temperatures crossed into ranges suitable for a Bull Shark nursery,” Dr. Charles Bangley wrote on his blog. Bangley is the lead author of the study, and a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and ECU. “The summertime conditions in the sound are becoming more similar to the temperature ranges we see in other estuaries where Bull Sharks are already known to give birth. As long as the temperatures stay within that range, juvenile Bull Sharks will likely be a regular presence in Pamlico Sound.”

Bull sharks’ known nurseries primarily have been found in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, but with water temperature and salinity increases associated with climate change, the sharks are adapting to find better breeding grounds. Between 1965 and 2011, only nine bull sharks were documented in the Pamlico Sound; between 2011 and 2016, 64 were documented — all of them juvenile.

On the surface, a rising juvenile bull shark population in the Sound would appear to have little impact on the Pamlico River, but a unique feature of bull sharks is their ability to…

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