Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 88, Issue 4, pp 361-368

First online:

Foraging ecology of Cookiecutter Sharks (Isistius brasiliensis) on pelagic fishes in Hawaii, inferred from prey bite wounds

  • Yannis P. PapastamatiouAffiliated withHawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa Email author 
  • , Brad M. WetherbeeAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island
  • , John O’SullivanAffiliated withMonterey Bay Aquarium
  • , Gwen D. GoodmanloweAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, California State University Long Beach
  • , Christopher G. LoweAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, California State University Long Beach

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The Cookiecutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis) is an ecto-parasitic predator of numerous large pelagic fish and mammals. However, little is known of its foraging ecology due to its elusive foraging tactics in the pelagic environment. We used bite scar patterns on pelagic fishes landed at the Honolulu Fish Auction to assess some of the Cookiecutter Shark foraging habits. Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) had the greatest percentage of bites (87.9 ± 25.0% of individuals had healed scars) followed by Opah (Lampris guttatus, 33.0 ± 8.3% of individuals). Most fish with scars only had one Cookiecutter Shark bite per individual with the exception of Swordfish, which often had >5 bites per individual. Furthermore, Swordfish had a higher proportion of healed bite scars meaning they had been attacked while free-swimming. Seasonal changes in the probability of hooked fish being bitten by sharks were apparent for Swordfish, Bigeye Tuna and Opah. Based on bite scar diameter, larger Cookiecutter Sharks may preferentially attack Swordfish rather than the other species of pelagic fish. When taken in conjunction with diving behavior of pelagic fish, and fishing depths, the results add further support to the hypothesis that Cookiecutter Sharks perform diel vertical migrations.


Cookiecutter Shark Longline fishery Opah Predation Swordfish