, Volume 145, Issue 5, pp 1023-1032
Date: 03 Jul 2004

Habitat partitioning among four elasmobranch species in nearshore, shallow waters of a subtropical embayment in Western Australia

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

There is a need to explore, in an integrated and statistical manner, how the number of species, relative abundance, species composition and life-cycle stages of elasmobranchs in nearshore waters vary among habitat types and during the year. Therefore, four sites in a large marine embayment, each representing a different habitat type, were sampled at regular intervals. These sites were: (1) unvegetated, with no vegetation within at least 200 m; (2) unvegetated, immediately adjacent to sparse mangroves; (3) unvegetated, immediately adjacent to dense mangroves; and (4) vegetated, with seagrass (Posidonia australis) throughout and in the vicinity. Gill netting caught 10 shark species (5 families), 5 ray species (4 families) and 12 teleost species (10 families). Carcharhinus cautus, which contributed approximately 60% to the numbers of elasmobranchs caught, completed its life cycle in nearshore, shallow waters. Negaprion acutidens, Carcharhinus brevipinna, Carcharhinus limbatus and Rhizoprionodon acutus used these waters as a nursery area. C. cautus was caught mainly in the unvegetated sites, particularly in those near mangroves. N. acutidens was caught entirely in unvegetated sites, while R. acutus, C. brevipinna and Chiloscyllium punctatum were caught predominantly or exclusively in seagrass. The mean number of species and mean catch rate of elasmobranchs were greatest for the seagrass site and least for the unvegetated site with no vegetation within at least 200 m and were significantly less for the latter site than for the unvegetated site immediately adjacent to dense mangroves (P<0.05). The numbers of species and catch rates of elasmobranchs were significantly greater in summer and autumn than in winter (P<0.05) and, in the case of number of species, also than in spring (P<0.05). We conclude that the spatial and food resources in the nearshore, shallow waters of Shark Bay are partitioned among elasmobranch species, thus reducing the potential for competition among these species for the resources in those waters.

Communicated by G.F. Humphrey, Sydney