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Distribution and site fidelity of four endemic catshark species in Walker Bay, South Africa


Catsharks (family Scyliorhinidae) and the recently reclassified deepwater catsharks (family Pentanchidae) are two of the largest families of elasmobranchs and include species that function as important mesopredators in almost all marine ecosystems. This study focuses on four species endemic to the coast of southern Africa: the puffadder shyshark Haploblepharus edwardsii, dark shyshark H. pictus, leopard catshark Poroderma pantherinum and pyjama catshark P. africanum. Similar to most catsharks, these four species are underrepresented in chondrichthyan research. Our investigation aimed to gain insight into the distribution and site fidelity of the focal species through mark-recapture efforts in Walker Bay on the southwest coast. The use of 95% minimum convex polygons indicated
large overlaps in distribution among the species as well as between sexes, except for H. edwardsii. Site fidelity was universally low (0.005) at three key sample sites, although travel distances between sites averaged 3–5.5 km across all species. The results suggest that sexual segregation is not present for the studied catshark species, with the possible exception of H. edwardsii, which had a low capture rate. The low levels of site fidelity and movement also indicated significant levels of site interconnectivity between the three commonly sampled sites as they fell within the same 5-km2 region of the bay. From the present findings, Walker Bay could be considered an area of interest for conservation with respect to the four species, allowing for further study of their population dynamics and the influence of the local marine protected area.