Abstract

The ecotouristic approach to sharks and rays has developed rapidly in the last 20 years. We studied three species in Gorgona Island from 427 dives ( 2004-2011), including 866 photographs and videos. There was at least one sighting in 34.4% of the dives, and 25.0% of the photos and videos were useful for identification of individuals. T. obesus was seen in all months of the year, and its presence was correlated with depths of 20-30m (66.9%), sandy-rocky bottoms (79.8%), and western (61.2%) and south (52.9%) areas of the island. The southern area had groups of up to 9 individuals but abundance was not correlated with zone, depth, bottom type or temperature. R. typus and M. birostris were mainly seen at 28- 33oC, in the north, where plankton was more abundant. We identified individually five whale sharks, 15 manta rays and 38 whitetip sharks, 9 of which (one ray and 8 whitetip sharks) were recaptured in different months and years. Most of recaptured whitetip sharks were alone (63.06%), resting (49.37%) and on the bottom (82.91%) in the same area of the photographic capture, suggesting a high philopatry of this species on the island; however, the recapture of three individuals in different zones indicate connectivity between of this species in the west, south and north zones. The Gorgona Island is an important area for breeding and growth of T. obesus, with presence of gravid females and births. It is also a seasonal passage area for R. typus and M. birostris, which occur most frequently between March and September, but do not form aggregations around the island. Rev. Biol. Trop. 62 (Suppl. 1): 329-342. Epub 2014 February 01.

Keywords: elasmobranchs, photoidentification, population dynamics, phylopatry, Tropical Eastern Pacific