Behavior and Habitat Use of Elasmobranchs in Captivity as an Assessment of Animal Welfare
This thesis project explores the behavior of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) in captivity at the Michigan Sea Life Aquarium. Little behavioral research is available on elasmobranchs, potentially due to the fact that they are difficult to observe reliably. However, this also leads to a general lack of knowledge about typical behavioral patterns that may impact welfare. Using both scan and instantaneous focal sampling, the location and behavior of seven of these animals was recorded from November 13th, 2018 to June 18th, 2019. As behavior and habitat use are both indicators of animal welfare, these results can be utilized to make positive changes to their current environment. In addition to helping animals currently in the aquarium, these results may aid in positive welfare decisions for elasmobranchs in captivity worldwide, leading to enhanced conservation efforts for these species.
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