Date of Award

Spring 2008

Document Type

Legacy Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies


Coastal and Marine Systems Science


College of Science

First Advisor

Daniel C. Abel

Second Advisor

Robert F. Young

Third Advisor

Dennis M. Allen

Additional Advisors

Keshav Jagannathan


Distribution and movements of neonate Atlantic sharpnose sharks (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) were investigated using tag-recapture methods in North Inlet, SC. One hundred fifty six neonate sharks were captured on standardized hook-and-line gear from May to September 2007. Atlantic sharpnose sharks were measured, tagged, sexed, and released. Hierarchical loglinear analysis showed no dependence of neonate shark abundance on creek size and tide (p = 0.43). A Kruskal-Wallis test showed no significant differences between catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) for any of the creeks sampled (x2= 8.176, df= 5, p = 0.147). A t-test showed no significant difference in CPUE for small or large creeks (p = 0.89). Concurrently, the average pre-caudal length (PCL) of these estuarine sharks was compared to that of sharks caught at a nearshore ocean location (Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach, SC, n = 217 neonates) to investigate the importance of the estuary habitat as a nursery area for this species. Linear regression analyses showed a significant increase in neonate length in the estuary but not at the nearshore site over about an 80 day period. A t-test showed a significant difference in PCL in the estuary and nearshore locations (p = 0.001). Ten of the 410 R. terraenovae (of all age classes) tagged during this study were recaptured over the summer (2.4% recapture rate). Five of the 156 sharks tagged in the estuary were recovered there while one was recaptured about 32 km north. Four of the 217 sharks tagged at Springmaid Pier were recaptured at that location or at other nearshore locations further north. Mixed results regarding site fidelity and growth of neonates at the estuarine and nearshore ocean locations indicates that both areas are extensively used by young Atlantic sharpnose sharks. Additional mark-recapture studies and estimates of mortality will be necessary to determine whether either or both habitats serve as nurseries for the species in South Carolina.