Dermal denticle assemblages in coral reef sediments correlate with conventional shark surveys

Methods in Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



1. It is challenging to assess long-term trends in mobile, long-lived, and relatively rare species such as sharks. Despite ongoing declines in many coastal shark populations, conventional surveys might be too fleeting and too recent to describe population trends over decades to millennia. Placing recent shark declines into historical context should improve management efforts as well as our understanding of past ecosystem dynamics.

2. A new paleoecological approach for surveying shark abundance on coral reefs is to quantify dermal denticle assemblages preserved in sediments. This approach assumes that denticle accumulation rates correlate with shark abundances. Here, we test this assumption by comparing the denticle record in surface sediments to three conventional shark survey methods at Palmyra Atoll, Line Islands, central Pacific Ocean, where shark density is high and spatially heterogeneous.

3. We generally found a significant positive correlation between denticle accumulation rates and shark abundances derived from underwater visual census, baited remote underwater video, and hook and line surveys.

4. Denticle accumulation rates reflected shark abundances, suggesting that denticle assemblages can preserve a signal of time-averaged shark abundance in low-energy coral reef environments. We offer suggestions for applying this tool to measure shark abundance over long timescales in other contexts.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Dermal denticle assemblages in coral reef sediments correlate with conventional shark surveys
Series title Methods in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1111/2041-210X.13346
Volume 11
Issue 3
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher British Ecological Society
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 14 p.
First page 362
Last page 375
Other Geospatial Palmyra Atoll Fish and Wildlife Refuge
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