Environmental cycles and individual variation in the vertical movements of a benthic elasmobranch

Edward Lavender, Dmitry Aleynik, Jane Dodd, Janine Illian, Mark A. James, Peter J. Wright, Sophie Smout, James Thorburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
75 Downloads (Pure)


Trends in depth and vertical activity reflect the behaviour, habitat use and habitat preferences of marine organisms. However, among elasmobranchs, research has focused heavily on pelagic sharks, while the vertical movements of benthic elasmobranchs, such as skate (Rajidae), remain understudied. In this study, the vertical movements of the Critically Endangered flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) were investigated using archival depth data collected at 2 min intervals from 21 individuals off the west coast of Scotland (56.5°N, −5.5°W) in 2016–17. Depth records comprised nearly four million observations and included eight time series longer than 1 year, forming one of the most comprehensive datasets collected on the movement of any skate to date. Additive modelling and functional data analysis were used to investigate vertical movements in relation to environmental cycles and individual characteristics. Vertical movements were dominated by individual variation but included prolonged periods of limited activity and more extensive movements that were associated with tidal, diel, lunar and seasonal cycles. Diel patterns were strongest, with irregular but frequent movements into shallower water at night, especially in autumn and winter. This research strengthens the evidence for vertical movements in relation to environmental cycles in benthic species and demonstrates a widely applicable flexible regression framework for movement research that recognises the importance of both individual-specific and group-level variation
Original languageEnglish
Article number164 (2021)
Number of pages18
JournalMarine Biology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2021


  • Autocorrelation
  • Biologging
  • Marine protected area
  • Movement ecology
  • Rajidae


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