Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 5, pp 1009–1020 | Cite as

Geographic and ontogenetic variation in the diet and daily ration of the bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo, from the eastern Gulf of Mexico

  • Dana M. BetheaEmail author
  • Loraine Hale
  • John K. Carlson
  • Enric Cortés
  • Charles A. Manire
  • James Gelsleichter
Research Article


To examine variation in diet and daily ration of the bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo (Linnaeus 1758), animals were collected from three areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico: northwest Florida (∼29°40′N, 85°13′W), Tampa Bay near Anclote Key (∼28°10′N, 82°42.5′W), and Florida Bay (∼24°50′N, 80°48′W) from March through September, 1998–2000. In each area, diet was assessed by life stage (young-of-the year, juveniles, and adults) and quantified using five indices: percent by number (%N), percent by weight (%W), frequency of occurrence (%O), index of relative importance expressed on a percent basis (%IRI), and %IRI based on diet category (%IRIDC). Diet could not be assessed for young-of-the-year in Tampa Bay or Florida Bay owing to low sample size. Diet analysis showed an ontogenetic shift in northwest Florida. Young-of-the-year stomachs from northwest Florida (n = 68, 1 empty) contained a mix of seagrass and crustaceans while juvenile stomachs (n = 82, 0 empty) contained a mix of crabs and seagrass and adult stomachs (= 39, 1 empty) contained almost exclusively crabs. Crabs made up the majority of both juvenile and adult diet in Tampa Bay (= 79, 2 empty, and = 88, 1 empty, respectively). Juvenile stomachs from Florida Bay (= 72, 0 empty) contained seagrass and a mix of crustaceans while adult stomachs contained more shrimp and cephalopods (= 82, 3 empty). Diets in northwest Florida and Tampa Bay were similar. The diet in Florida Bay was different from those in the other two areas, consisting of fewer crabs and more cephalopods and lobsters. Plant material was found in large quantities in all stomachs examined from all locations (>15 %IRIDC in 6 of the 7 life stage-area combinations, >30 %IRIDC in 4 of the 7 combinations, and 62 %IRIDC in young-of-the-year diet in northwest Florida). Using species- and area-specific inputs, a bioenergetic model was constructed to estimate daily ration. Models were constructed under two scenarios: assuming plant material was and was not part of the diet. Overall, daily ration was significantly different by sex, life stage, and region. The bioenergetic model predicted increasing daily ration with decreasing latitude and decreasing daily ration with ontogeny regardless of the inclusion or exclusion of plant material. These results provide evidence that bonnetheads continuously exposed to warmer temperatures have elevated metabolism and require additional energy consumption to maintain growth and reproduction.


Daily Ration Prey Size Shark Species Specific Dynamic Action Bioenergetic Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the staff and personnel of the NOAA Fisheries Panama City Laboratory in Panama City, Florida. Special thanks to go J. Tyminski for supervising the collection of sharks in Tampa Bay and Florida Bay. This project would not have been possible without the hard work of several volunteers, interns, and technicians at Mote Marine Laboratory and the NOAA Fisheries Panama City Laboratory. E. Dutton designed and wrote the program used to calculate cumulative prey curves. This project was funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) grant #R826128-01-0. This manuscript has not received the US EPA’s required peer and policy review; therefore, it does not necessarily reflect the views of the agency. In addition, reference to trade names does not imply endorsement by NOAA Fisheries.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana M. Bethea
    • 1
    Email author
  • Loraine Hale
    • 1
  • John K. Carlson
    • 1
  • Enric Cortés
    • 1
  • Charles A. Manire
    • 2
  • James Gelsleichter
    • 2
  1. 1.Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Panama City LaboratoryNOAA FisheriesPanama City BeachUSA
  2. 2.Mote Marine LaboratorySarasotaUSA

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