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Intraspecific differences in relative isotopic niche area and overlap of co-occurring sharks

  • Shiffman, David Samuel1, 2, 3
  • Kaufman, Les4
  • Heithaus, Michael5
  • Hammerschlag, Neil1, 2, 6
  • 1 University of Miami, Shark Research and Conservation Program, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL, 33149, USA , Miami (United States)
  • 2 University of Miami, Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, 1365 Memorial Drive, Coral Gables, FL, 33146, USA , Coral Gables (United States)
  • 3 Simon Fraser University, Earth to Oceans Group, Department of Biological Sciences, 8888 University Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada , Vancouver (Canada)
  • 4 Boston University Marine Program, Department of Biology, 1 Silber Way, Boston, MA, 02215, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 5 Florida International University, School of Environment, Arts, and Society, North Miami, FL, 33181, USA , North Miami (United States)
  • 6 University of Miami, Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL, 33149, USA , Miami (United States)
Published Article
Aquatic Ecology
Publication Date
Mar 28, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s10452-019-09685-5
Springer Nature


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 δ13C and δ15N stable isotope analysis to assess the relative isotopic niche area (i.e., which species has the largest and smallest isotopic niche area within a study site) and core isotopic niche overlap between 299 sharks of 11 co-occurring shark species that vary in size, diet and behavior in three coastal study areas in South Florida. Overall, results show that the relative isotopic niche area and patterns of core isotopic niche overlap between some sympatric shark species varied between sites, suggesting plasticity in resource use and competitive interactions between shark species (e.g., 85% of blacktip shark Carcharhinus limbatus standard ellipse area overlapped with the blacknose shark C. acronotus ellipse in Biscayne Bay, but there was no overlap between these species’ ellipses in nearby Florida Bay). Therefore, patterns of resource use and trophic interactions documented among species from one site may not be applicable to a neighboring location. These findings may have implications for food web models that incorporate trophic data from different areas for a species when local data are unavailable.

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