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Trophic ecology of reef sharks determined using stable isotopes and telemetry

Posted on 05 June 2012

TitleTrophic ecology of reef sharks determined using stable isotopes and telemetry
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSpeed, CW, Meekan MG, Field IC, McMahon CR, Abrantes K, Bradshaw CJA
JournalCoral Reefs
Pagination357 - 367
Date Published6/2012
Keywordsbiodiversity, isotopes, sharks
AbstractEstablishing 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.
Short TitleCoral Reefs