Blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) show high capacity for wound healing and recovery following injury

Chin, Andrew, Mourier, Johann, and Rummer, Jodie L. (2015) Blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) show high capacity for wound healing and recovery following injury. Conservation Physiology, 3 (1). cov062. pp. 1-9.

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Wound healing is important for sharks from the earliest life stages, for example, as the 'umbilical scar' in viviparous species heals, and throughout adulthood, when sharks can incur a range of external injuries from natural and anthropogenic sources. Despite anecdotal accounts of rapid healing in elasmobranchs, data regarding recovery and survival of individuals from different wound or injury types has not been systematically collected. The present study documented: (i) 'umbilical scar' healing in wild-caught, neonatal blacktip reef sharks while being reared for 30 days in flow-through laboratory aquaria in French Polynesia; (ii) survival and recovery of free-swimming blacktip reef sharks in Australia and French Polynesia following a range of injuries; and (iii) long-term survival following suspected shark-finning activities. Laboratory monitoring, tag-recapture records, telemetry data and photo-identification records suggest that blacktip reef sharks have a high capacity to survive and recover from small or even large and severe wounds. Healing rates, recovery and survival are important factors to consider when assessing impacts of habitat degradation and fishing stress on shark populations. The present study suggests that individual survival may depend more on handling practices and physiological stress rather than the extent of physical injury. These observations also contribute to discussions regarding the ethics of tagging practices used in elasmobranch research and provide baseline healing rates that may increase the accuracy in estimating reproductive timing inferred from mating scars and birth dates for neonatal sharks based on umbilical scar healing status.

Item ID: 42221
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2051-1434
Keywords: shark; healing; physiology; scar; injury
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© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for Experimental Biology.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funders: Institut des Récifs Coralliens du Pacifique, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CoE Coral Reef Studies), Direction à l'Environnement (DIREN), French Polynesia, Coordination Unit of the Coral Reef Initiatives for the Pacific (CRISP Program), Proscience, Australian Government Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF)
Projects and Grants: MTSRF Program 4.8.4 (A.C.)
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2016 04:20
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management @ 35%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0606 Physiology > 060603 Animal Physiology Systems @ 30%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070403 Fisheries Management @ 35%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830204 Wild Caught Fin Fish (excl. Tuna) @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 20%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960701 Coastal and Marine Management Policy @ 50%
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