The reproductive biology of the Atlantic Sharpnose Shark Rhizoprionodon terraenovae in the Gulf of Mexico was investigated by examining 1,306 specimens (693 females, 613 males) collected from the Florida Keys to waters off Brownsville, Texas. The results of this study confirm the annual reproductive cycle established for this species; however, there was a significant amount of variability within the cycle. Ovulatory and postovulatory females were present from March to October, indicating that mating and ovulation were occurring over a more protracted period than previously described (e.g., May to July). The occurrence of postpartum females from April to September, the varying sizes of the embryos across several months, and the occurrence of mature spermatozoa in the testes of adults from March to November also corroborate the evidence of reproductive plasticity in this species. This observed variability in the reproductive cycle indicates that the Gulf of Mexico Atlantic Sharpnose Shark population is not completely synchronous in regards to mating, ovulation, and parturition, as a portion of the population is demonstrating reproductive asynchrony. Although the cause of this asynchrony remains unclear, it may be related to the environmental conditions of the Gulf of Mexico, which could provide water temperatures that are optimal for the reproduction of this species through much of the year (i.e., March to October), resulting in a protracted reproductive cycle. Given the results of the current study, the reproductive cycles of other carcharhinid species in this region should be examined in more detail to determine whether there is asynchrony in them as well, as this phenomenon could impact future management strategies. Received October 26, 2012; accepted March 5, 2013.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science