Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lemon sharks swimming up to Carolinas; researchers want to know why - 20th Aug 2011

At the first hint of warm temperatures, they begin to head toward South Carolina.

But they’re not tourists from up north. They’re lemon sharks.

The apex predators flock to the waters off the Carolinas’ sea islands from April to late October, but scientists aren’t sure why.

Steven Kessel, a researcher from Cardiff University in Wales, traveled to Hilton Head Island from Miami last week to try to answer that and other questions about the species.

Working with captain Chip Michalove of Outcast Sport Fishing Charters on Hilton Head, Kessel and a research assistant fished the waters of Port Royal Sound for the sharks so they could attach acoustic transmitter tags to track their migrations.

The researchers and the charter boat’s customers cast heavy-duty fishing lines into the choppy waters between one and three miles from shore.

Kessel hoped to land at least two lemons to learn, among other things, where they mate, where they give birth, and why lemons from Florida are in the Carolinas during the summer.

“I know my sharks are coming here from Florida, but I don’t think they’re giving birth this far north,” Kessel said from the deck of the Outcast. “I think by the time they get to South Carolina, they’ve dropped their pups in either north Florida or Georgia. If we can figure all that out, then we will be able to document almost their entire biological life cycle.” Read More