Assessment of nursery areas for the scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) across the Eastern Tropical Pacific using a stable isotopes approach

Hammerhead Shark. Photo: Alex Hearn.

The scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) is one of the most iconic marine species across the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), yet little is still known about its reproductive biology and the origin of their nursery areas, despite a continuous global decline in their populations. Understanding the origin of shark nurseries is a complex task; however, it is known that the obtention of resources in the first stages of life of placental sharks occurs through maternal reminiscence, thus it is possible to infer the origin of the energy that neonates accumulate during their gestation. In this study we assessed the ecological connectivity and nursery ground use by undertaking a stable isotope analysis of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in skin samples of neonates S. lewini across much of their distribution in the ETP, including the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). Our isotopic mixing models revealed that the S. lewini neonates found in the GMR, have isotopic information similar to adult females inhabit in the Galapagos archipelago, suggesting that they are direct descendants of the females that inhabit the GMR. While neonates found off the continental coasts of Ecuador and Panama have isotopic signatures like those of adult females inhabiting several locations across the ETP. This work provides insight into the origin of nursery areas used by adult S. lewini that aggregate in large numbers across oceanic islands of the ETP, highlighting the value of isotopic models to generate useful information for the conservation of sharks.

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!