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Island School Lemon Shark Ecology Research Update

April 18, 2011

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Apex predators: powerful, majestic, misunderstood and we’re not just talking about the shark research team. In the past few weeks, we have strived to further our understanding of the importance of lemon sharks in the Bahamian ecosystem. Lemon sharks are essential to the marine ecosystems of The Bahamas because they balance the populations of other species and prevent trophic cascades. Our study focuses on the habitats that are most important to juvenile lemon shark survival and health. The main purpose of this study is to measure the relative abundance of the lemon sharks in three distinct ecosystems throughout Eleuthera, to gain a better understanding of their habitat preference and use. The three areas we are examining include mangrove creeks, flats and sandy beaches. We have visited four study locations so far, and have caught three sharks, including two lemon sharks and one blacknose shark. We have also learned about the anatomy and physiology of sharks, and how human development and commercial fishing have affected shark populations worldwide as well as locally. When we caught our first lemon shark, the feeling was exhilarating. We measured, weighed and tagged the shark. A DNA sample was also taken to draw familial connections between populations. We each took turns handling the shark and feeling its sand paper-like skin for the first time. So far, we’ve had a great time in the field and classroom, as we learn more about this vital species in an up close and personal approach. We may have broken an Island School rule and begun a romantic, exclusive relationship with a lemon shark from Broad Creek. We are extremely excited about what the future holds for the shark team as we progress in our research.

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