Michael Heithaus

Michael Heithaus
Florida International University | FIU · Department of Biological Sciences

PhD

About

262
Publications
114,155
Reads
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15,067
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 2012 - present
August 2003 - present
Florida International University
April 2001 - July 2003
Mote Marine Laboratory
Education
January 1997 - April 2001
Simon Fraser University
Field of study
  • Behavioral Ecology
August 1991 - May 1995
Oberlin College
Field of study
  • Biology

Publications

Publications (262)
Article
Predators continue to be harvested unsustainably throughout most of the Earth’s ecosystems. Recent research demonstrates that the functional loss of predators could have far-reaching consequences on carbon cycling and, by implication, our ability to ameliorate climate change impacts. Yet the influence of predators on carbon accumulation and preserv...
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Efforts to conserve globally declining herbivorous green sea turtles have resulted in promising growth of some populations. These trends could significantly impact critical ecosystem services provided by seagrass meadows on which turtles feed. Expanding turtle populations could improve seagrass ecosystem health by removing seagrass biomass and prev...
Article
The loss of large-bodied herbivores and/or top predators has been associated with large-scale changes in ecosystems around the world, but there remain important questions regarding the contexts in which such changes are most likely and the mechanisms through which they occur, particularly in marine ecosystems. We used long-term exclusion cages to e...
Article
1. Risk effects of predators can profoundly affect community dynamics, but the nature of these effects is context dependent. 2. Although context dependence has hindered the development of a general framework for predicting the nature and extent of risk effects, recent studies suggest that such a framework is attainable if the factors that shape ant...
Article
Recent studies document unprecedented declines in marine top predators that can initiate trophic cascades. Predicting the wider ecological consequences of these declines requires understanding how predators influence communities by inflicting mortality on prey and inducing behavioral modifications (risk effects). Both mechanisms are important in ma...
Article
Artisanal fisheries are socially and economically important along the Caribbean coast of Colombia. These fisheries remain poorly characterized, making it difficult to estimate their potential impact, especially on non‐targeted catch such as elasmobranchs. A rapid assessment framework was used to investigate the exploitation, use, and relative abund...
Article
Chondrichthyan fishes are among the most threatened vertebrates on the planet because many species have slow life histories that are outpaced by intense fishing. The Western Central Atlantic Ocean, which includes the Greater Caribbean, is a hotspot of chondrichthyan biodiversity and abundance, but has been characterized by extensive shark and ray f...
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Sirenians (manatees Trichechus spp. and the dugong Dugong dugon) are large-bodied and almost exclusively herbivorous aquatic mammals occurring in coastal and freshwater habitats of most tropical and subtropical regions. Although sirenian ecology, habitat use, and abundance have been investigated across their range, little is known about the roles a...
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Over the past 4 decades there has been a growing concern for the conservation status of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays). In 2002, the first elasmobranch species were added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Less than 20 yr later, there were 39 species on Appendix II and 5 o...
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Small cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, and small toothed whales) occur from the poles to the tropics, and from freshwater habitats to the open ocean. Most ecological research has focused on the influence of abiotic factors on the abundance, distribution, and behavior of these species. The ecological impacts of small cetaceans on communities and ecos...
Article
Context: Aerial video surveys from unpiloted aerial systems (UAS) have become popular in wildlife research because of increased accessibility to remote areas, reduction of anthropogenic disruption to habitats and wildlife, low operating costs, and improved researcher safety. In shallow marine systems, they can provide opportunities to rapidly surve...
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Wetlands are dynamic environments where aquatic organisms are affected by both predictable and unpredictable changes in hydrology. Understanding how abundant large-bodied predators respond to these changes is especially important in context of wetland restoration. We used satellite telemetry to investigate how individual (e.g., sex, size, body cond...
Preprint
Chondrichthyan fishes are among the most threatened vertebrates on the planet because many species have slow life histories that are outpaced by intense fishing. The Western Central Atlantic Ocean, which includes the greater Caribbean, is a hotspot of chondrichthyan biodiversity and abundance, but is historically characterized by extensive shark an...
Article
Full-text available
Prey depletion may contribute to marine predator declines, yet the forage base required to sustain an unfished population of predatory fish at carrying capacity is unknown. We integrated demographic and physiological data within a Bayesian bioenergetic model to estimate annual consumption of a grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) population...
Article
Predators may alter niche overlap between prey species by eliciting divergent anti-predator behavior. Accordingly, we exploited heterogeneous gray wolf Canis lupus presence in Washington, USA, to contrast patterns of resource and dietary overlap between mule Odocoileus hemionus and white-tailed deer O. virginianus at sites with and without resident...
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Shark dive ecotourism is a lucrative industry in many regions around the globe. In some cases, sharks are provisioned using bait, prompting increased research on how baited dives influence shark behavior and yielding mixed results. Effects on patterns of habitat use and movement seemly vary across species and locations. It is unknown, however, whet...
Article
Baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) have become an important and frequently used tool by resource managers to monitor relative abundances for a variety of marine species. As with any abundance survey method, fundamental assumptions of the technique are that counts derived from videos accurately reflect true changes to abundances, while b...
Article
Under global climate change, storm events are predicted to increase in strength and frequency. Although aquatic animals can be affected by acute natural disturbances, information on the immediate consequences of these weather systems on the behavioral ecology of highly mobile aquatic predators remains limited. Here we examine the spatial distributi...
Article
Shark populations have declined across the Caribbean region, with negative associations between shark abundance and human population density, open access to fishing, and proximity to large markets (‘market gravity’). This decline is frequently attributed to fishing mortality, which increases in areas closer to humans and outside marine reserves. Al...
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Animal dietary information provides the foundation for understanding trophic relationships, which is essential for ecosystem management. Yet, in marine systems, high-resolution diet reconstruction tools are currently under-developed. This is particularly pertinent for large marine vertebrates, for which direct foraging behaviour is difficult or imp...
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Proximity and size of the nearest market (‘market gravity’) have been shown to have strong negative effects on coral reef fish communities that can be mitigated by the establishment of closed areas. However, moray eels are functionally unique predators that are generally not subject to targeted fishing and should therefore not directly be affected...
Article
Extreme climatic events (ECEs) and predator removal represent some of the most widespread stressors to ecosystems. Though species interactions can alter ecological effects of climate change (and vice versa), it is less understood whether, when and how predator removal can interact with ECEs to exacerbate their effects. Understanding the circumstanc...
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Rays (superorder Batoidea) are the most diverse group of elasmobranchs, and many are threatened with extinction. However, there remain areas where research on the ecology of this group is lacking, from trophic interactions to their importance to ecosystem structure and function. Such ecological insights are critical for predicting the potential con...
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Non-consumptive predator effects (NCEs) are now widely recognised for their capacity to shape ecosystem structure and function. Yet, forecasting the propagation of these predator-induced trait changes through particular communities remains a challenge. Accordingly, focusing on plasticity in prey anti-predator behaviours, we conceptualise the multi-...
Article
Sea cucumber populations around the globe are experiencing marked declines caused by overexploitation and habitat degradation. Fisheries-independent data used to manage these ecologically and economically important species are frequently collected using diver-or snorkeler-based surveys, which have a number of limitations, including small spatial co...
Article
Using un-manned aerial vehicles and machine learning to improve sea cucumber density estimation in shallow habitats. Sea cucumber populations around the globe are experiencing marked declines caused by overexploitation and habitat degradation. Fisheries-independent data used to manage these ecologically and economically important species are freque...
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An Amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
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Decades of overexploitation have devastated shark populations, leaving considerable doubt as to their ecological status1,2. Yet much of what is known about sharks has been inferred from catch records in industrial fisheries, whereas far less information is available about sharks that live in coastal habitats³. Here we address this knowledge gap usi...
Article
Chronic environmental change threatens biodiversity, but acute disturbance events present more rapid and immediate threats. In 2010, a cold snap across south Florida had wide-ranging impacts, including negative effects on recreational fisheries, agriculture, and ecological communities. Here, we use acoustic telemetry and historical longline monitor...
Article
The increased occurrence of extreme climate events, such as marine heatwaves (MHWs), has resulted in substantial ecological impacts worldwide. To date metrics of thermal stress within marine systems have focussed on coral communities, and less is known about measuring stress relevant to other primary producers, such as seagrasses. An extreme MHW oc...
Article
Male Indo‐pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia, have converged with humans in the formation of nested male alliances and the use of synchrony in alliance behavior. Further, the strength of association among allied male dolphins varies and the stability of alliances correlates with the rate that males consort with estrus femal...
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Background Hurricanes can have catastrophic effects on coastal ecosystems. To minimize negative impacts of storms, animals may seek shelter in place, move to a nearby refuge, or evacuate long-distances. Crocodilians can be important predators in estuarine habitats, but little is known about how they respond to extreme weather events. We investigate...
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A sudden increase in the rates of shark attacks on humans at Reunion Island has been blamed by some on the implementation of a marine protected area (MPA) along the island's west coast, where attacks, primarily by bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas, were concentrated. We used passive acoustic telemetry to investigate the spatial distribution of bull s...
Article
The effects of anticoagulant EDTA and sodium heparin (SH) on stable carbon δ13C and nitrogen δ15N isotopic values of red blood cells (RBC) and blood plasma in juvenile blacktip reef sharks Carcharhinus melanopterus were analysed. Plasma preserved with anticoagulants was not isotopically distinct from plasma stored in no‐additive control tubes but R...
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Knowledge of population structure, connectivity, and effective population size remains limited for many marine apex predators, including the bull shark Carcharhinus leucas. This large-bodied coastal shark is distributed worldwide in warm temperate and tropical waters, and uses estuaries and rivers as nurseries. As an apex predator, the bull shark l...
Article
The effects of anticoagulant EDTA and sodium heparin (SH) on stable carbon δ13C and nitrogen δ15N isotopic values of red blood cells (RBC) and blood plasma in juvenile blacktip reef sharks Carcharhinus melanopterus were analysed. Plasma preserved with anticoagulants was not isotopically distinct from plasma stored in no-additive control tubes but R...
Article
Extreme climate events such as hurricanes can influence the movement and distribution of fish and other aquatic vertebrates. However, our understanding of the scale of movement responses and how they vary across taxa and ecosystems remains incomplete. In this study, we used acoustic telemetry data to investigate the movement patterns of common snoo...
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A central question in contemporary ecology is how climate change will alter ecosystem structure and function across scales of space and time. Climate change has been shown to alter ecological patterns from individuals to ecosystems, often with negative implications for ecosystem functions and services. Furthermore, as climate change fuels more freq...
Article
Predicting the responses of animals to environmental changes is a fundamental goal of ecology and is necessary for conservation and management of species. While most studies focus on relatively gradual changes, extreme events may have lasting impacts on populations. Animals respond to major disturbances such as hurricanes by seeking shelter, migrat...
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Few studies have assessed whether patterns of resource partitioning among sympatric marine predators vary between different habitats. This type of data is important for understanding food web functioning as well as for supporting an ecosystem-based fisheries management plan. In this study, we used d 13 C and d 15 N stable isotope analysis to assess...
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Emerging conservation efforts for the world’s large predators may, if successful, restore natural predator–prey interactions. Marine reserves, where large predators tend to be relatively common, offer an experimental manipulation to investigate interactions between large-bodied marine predators and their prey. We hypothesized that southern stingray...
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While extreme climactic events (ECEs) are predicted to become more frequent, reliably predicting their impacts on consumers remains challenging, particularly for large consumers in marine environments. Many studies that do evaluate ECE effects focus primarily on direct effects, though indirect effects can be equally or more important. Here, we inve...
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Ontogenetic niche shifts are widespread. However, individual differences in size at birth, morphology, sex, and personalities can cause variability in behavior. As such, inherent inter-individual differences within populations may lead to context-dependent changes in behavior with animal body size, which is of concern for understanding population d...
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The non-consumptive effects of predators on prey are now widely recognized, but the need remains for studies identifying the factors that determine how particular prey species respond behaviorally when threatened with predation. We took advantage of ongoing gray wolf (Canis lupus) recolonization in eastern Washington, USA, to contrast habitat use o...
Article
In the French West Indies (Caribbean), the insecticide Chlordecone (CLD) has been extensively used to reduce banana weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus) infestations in banana plantations. Previous studies have shown high CLD concentrations in freshwater and coastal communities of the region. CLD concentrations, however, have not yet been assessed in mar...
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Stable isotope analysis (SIA) can be a useful tool for tracking the long-distance movements of migratory taxa. However, local-scale sources of isotopic variation, such as differences in habitat use or foraging patterns, may complicate these efforts. Few studies have evaluated the implications of local-scale foraging specializations for broad-scale...
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A novel image analysis‐based technique applied to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) survey data is described to detect and locate individual free‐ranging sharks within aggregations. The method allows rapid collection of data and quantification of fine‐scale swimming and collective patterns of sharks. We demonstrate the usefulness of this technique in a...
Article
Understanding the nature of migratory behaviors within animal populations is critical to develop and refine conservation and management plans. However, tracking migratory marine animals across life stages and over multiple years is inherently difficult to achieve, especially for highly migratory species. In this paper, we explore the use of acousti...
Chapter
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Seagrass ecosystems were traditionally assumed to be structured by competition as well as by “bottom up forces” such as resource availability and disturbance. However, a wealth of new evidence demonstrates that exertion of “top down control” by animals may be widespread. The strength and direction of top down control is context dependent, however,...
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Bottlenose dolphins ( Tursiops truncatus ) are abundant in many coastal ecosystems, including the coastal Everglades. Understanding spatial and temporal variation in their abundance and group sizes is important for estimating their potential ecological importance and predicting how environmental changes (e.g. ecosystem restoration) might impact the...
Article
There is growing recognition that humans may mediate the strength and nature of the ecological effects of large predators. We took advantage of ongoing gray wolf (Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758) recolonization in Washington, USA, to contrast adult survival rates and sources of mortality for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque, 1817)) and white-t...
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Full-text available
Bulk stable isotope analysis was used to assess the trophic level and foraging habitats of Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) compared to three large sympatric predatory teleosts (the Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus, black grouper Mycteroperca bonaci, and great barracuda Sphyraena barracuda) in an isolated Caribbean coral reef ecosyste...