Trophic ecology of reef sharks determined using stable isotopes and telemetry

Speed, C.W., Meekan, M.G., Field, I.C., McMahon, C.R., Abrantes, K., and Bradshaw, C.J.A. (2012) Trophic ecology of reef sharks determined using stable isotopes and telemetry. Coral Reefs, 31 (2). pp. 357-367.

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Establishing the ecological role of predators within an ecosystem is central to understanding community dynamics and is useful in designing effective management and conservation strategies. We analysed differences in the trophic ecology of four species of reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, Triaenodon obesus and Negaprion acutidens) at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, by analysing tissue stable isotopes (δ¹⁵N and δ¹³C). We also monitored animals using acoustic telemetry to determine long-term residency patterns in a bay at the southern end of the reef, Coral Bay. Overall, mean δ¹³C was similar among species, ranging between −10.9 and −11.8‰, suggesting a food-web dependency on coastal producers. Classification and regression tree analysis identified an effect of species on δ15N that separated C. amblyrhynchos and C. melanopterus from N. acutidens and T. obesus. For C. amblyrhynchos and C. melanopterus, animals were also divided by size classes, with smaller sharks having lower average δ¹⁵N than larger animals; this suggests that δ¹⁵N increases with size for these two species. Juvenile C. melanopterus, juvenile N. acutidens and adult T. obesus had trophic levels of 3.7, for juvenile C. amblyrhynchos and adult C. melanopterus it was 4, and adult C. amblyrhynchos had a value of 4.3. Trophic-level estimates for C. melanopterus and C. amblyrhynchos corroborate previous conclusions based on diet studies. We found no evidence for a difference in isotopic composition between resident and non-resident sharks. The lack of variation in isotopic composition was consistent with high mean residency of these species recorded using acoustic telemetry, which was 79% (±0.09 SE) of days monitored for T. obesus, followed by N. acutidens (57 ± 19.55%), C. amblyrhynchos (54 ± 13%) and C. melanopterus (33 ± 8.28%). High δ¹³C composition in reef sharks and long-term residency behaviour suggest that coastal marine reserves might provide effective conservation refuges for some species.

Item ID: 25302
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: elasmobranch, food web, acoustic monitoring, residency, δ13C, δ15N
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2013 05:18
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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