|Range of the creek whaler|
Galeolamna fitzroyensis Whitley, 1943
The creek whaler (Carcharhinus fitzroyensis) is a common species of requiem shark, and part of the family Carcharhinidae, endemic to northern Australia. It frequents shallow waters close to shore, including estuaries. This small, stocky shark usually grows to 1.0–1.3 m (3.3–4.3 ft) long and is brownish in color without conspicuous fin markings. It can be identified by its long snout, large, triangular pectoral fins, and large, anteriorly positioned first dorsal fin.
The diet of the creek whaler consists mainly of small teleost fishes and crustaceans. It is viviparous, with the unborn young being sustained through a placental connection. There is a defined mating season that lasts from May to July. Females give birth to one to seven pups annually, following a gestation period of seven to nine months. A small number of creek whalers are caught incidentally in inshore gillnets and used for food, but the effect of fishing on its population seems to be inconsequential. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed this species under Least Concern.
Taxonomy and phylogeny
The creek whaler was described by Australian ichthyologist Gilbert Percy Whitley in a 1943 volume of Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. He assigned the new species to the subgenus Uranganops of the genus Galeolamna, and gave it the specific epithet fitzroyensis because the type specimen, a 1.2 m (3.9 ft) long female, was collected from Connor's Creek in the Fitzroy River estuary. Subsequent authors have synonymized Galeolamna with Carcharhinus.
The evolutionary relationships of the creek whaler have yet to be fully resolved. In comparative morphological studies published by Jack Garrick in 1982 and Leonard Compagno in 1988, it was tentatively placed in a grouping defined by the whitecheek shark (C. dussumieri) and the blackspot shark (C. sealei). Shane Lavery, in a 1992 study based on allozymes, reported that this species was close to the nervous shark (C. cautus) and the blacktip reef shark (C. melanopterus). Ximena Vélez-Zuazoa and Ingi Agnarsson, in a 2011 study based on nuclear and mitochondrial genes, found it to be the basal member of a clade also containing the graceful shark (C. amblyrhynchoides), the blacktip shark (C. limbatus), and the Australian blacktip shark (C. tilstoni).
The body of the creek whaler is spindle-shaped and rather stocky. The long snout has a narrowly parabolic shape and large nostrils preceded by small, nipple-shaped flaps of skin. The eyes are circular and of medium size, and are equipped with nictitating membranes. The arched mouth has very short furrows at the corners. There are 30 upper and 28–30 lower tooth rows. The upper teeth are long and triangular with strongly serrated edges, and become increasing angled towards the sides of the jaw. The lower teeth are slender and upright with finely serrated edges. The five pairs of gill slits are short.
The pectoral fins are distinctively large and triangular, with rounded to pointed tips. The large first dorsal fin originates over the rear of the pectoral fin bases. The second dorsal fin is relatively tall and long, and originates over or slightly behind the anal fin origin. There is no ridge between the dorsal fins. The anal fin is larger than the second dorsal fin. There is a crescent-shaped notch on the caudal peduncle just before the origin of the upper caudal fin lobe. The asymmetrical caudal fin has a well-developed lower lobe and a longer upper lobe with a ventral notch near the tip. The skin is densely covered by overlapping dermal denticles, each bearing three to five horizontal ridges leading to marginal teeth. This species is bronze to brownish gray above and pale below, and lacks an obvious lighter band on the flanks. Rarely, individuals may be light bluish gray above. It may reach 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in length, though 1.0–1.3 m (3.3–4.3 ft) is typical.
Distribution and habitat
The range of the creek whaler is restricted to northern Australia, between Gladstone in central Queensland and Cape Cuvier in Western Australia. It is a common species that inhabits estuaries and inshore waters from the intertidal zone to a depth of at least 40 m (130 ft).
Biology and ecology
The creek whaler feeds predominantly on small teleost fishes (including threadfin breams and lizardfishes) and crustaceans (including penaeid prawns and mantis shrimps); cephalopods are also infrequently consumed. Known parasites of this species include the tapeworm Callitetrarhynchus gracilis, and a nematode in the genus Pulchrascaris.
Like other members of its family, the creek whaler is viviparous, with the developing embryos receiving nourishment from the mother through a placental connection formed from the depleted yolk sac. Females produce litters of one to seven young every year. Mating occurs between May and July, with the females storing the sperm until ovulation takes place between July and September. After a gestation period of seven to nine months, birthing occurs between February and May of the following year. The newborns measure 35–50 cm (14–20 in) long and spend their first few months of life in shallow, inshore nursery areas such as Cleveland Bay in north Queensland. Males and females attain sexual maturity at lengths of around 83–88 cm (33–35 in) and 90–100 cm (35–39 in) respectively.
The creek whaler is a minor bycatch of inshore gillnet fisheries operating in northern Australia; the meat is sold for human consumption. Given its relatively high reproductive rate, its population appears capable of withstanding present levels of fishing. Therefore, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed this species under Least Concern.
- Bennett, M.B.; Kyne, P.M. (2003). "Carcharhinus fitzroyensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Last, P.R.; Stevens, J.D. (2009). Sharks and Rays of Australia (second ed.). Harvard University Press. pp. 260–261. ISBN 0-674-03411-2.
- Whitley, G.P. (September 15, 1943). "Ichthyological descriptions and notes". Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 68 (3–4): 114–144.
- Compagno, L.J.V. (1984). Sharks of the World: An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Shark Species Known to Date. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. pp. 472–473. ISBN 92-5-101384-5.
- Garrick, J.A.F. (1982). Sharks of the genus Carcharhinus. NOAA Technical Report, NMFS CIRC 445.
- Compagno, L.J.V. (1988). Sharks of the Order Carcharhiniformes. Princeton University Press. pp. 319–320. ISBN 0-691-08453-X.
- Lavery, S. (1992). "Electrophoretic analysis of phylogenetic relationships among Australian carcharhinid sharks". Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43 (1): 97–108. doi:10.1071/MF9920097.
- Vélez-Zuazoa, X.; Agnarsson, I. (February 2011). "Shark tales: A molecular species-level phylogeny of sharks (Selachimorpha, Chondrichthyes)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 58 (2): 207–217. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.11.018. PMID 21129490.
- Voigt, M.; Weber, D. (2011). Field Guide for Sharks of the Genus Carcharhinus. Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-3-89937-132-1.
- Simpfendorfer, C.A.; Milward, N.E. (August 1, 1993). "Utilisation of a tropical bay as a nursery area by sharks of the families Carcharhinidae and Sphyrnidae" (PDF). Environmental Biology of Fishes 37 (4): 337–345. doi:10.1007/BF00005200.
- Lyle, J.M. (1987). "Observations on the biology of Carcharhinus cautus (Whitley), C. melanopterus (Quoy & Gaimard) and C. fitzroyensis (Whitley) from Northern Australia". Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 38 (6): 701–710. doi:10.1071/mf9870701.
- Beveridge, I.; Campbell, R.A. (1996). "New records and description of trypanorhynch cestodes from Australian fishes". Records of the South Australian Museum 29 (1): 1–22.
- Bruce, N.L.; Cannon, L.R.G. (1990). "Ascaridoid nematodes from sharks from Australia and the Solomon Islands, Southwestern Pacific Ocean". Invertebrate Taxonomy 4: 763–783. doi:10.1071/it9900763.
- Carcharhinus fitzroyensis, Creek whaler at FishBase
- Carcharhinus fitzroyensis (Creek Whaler) at IUCN Red List
- Species Description of Carcharhinus fitzroyensis at www.shark-references.com