The trophic ecology of two abundant mesopredators in south-east coastal waters of Tasmania, Australia
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Investigating predator–prey relationships is an important component for identifying and understanding the factors that influence the structure and function of ecosystems. Mesopredators, defined as mid-level predators, have a profound effect on ecosystem structure by contributing an important link between apex predators and lower trophic levels. The diet of two elasmobranch mesopredators, Squalus acanthias and Mustelus antarcticus, was investigated in three locations in south-east Tasmania. Squalus acanthias consumed predominantly pelagic teleosts and cephalopods, while M. antarcticus predominantly consumed benthic crustaceans. As a result, there was low dietary and niche overlap between the two species. There was however evidence of intra-specific dietary variations between locations for both the species. This study has contributed to a better understanding of the top-down dynamics of the food web in coastal Tasmania, by providing important dietary information of two abundant mesopredators. In addition, the similar dietary patterns for S. acanthias and other Mustelus species over much of their global range suggest they may be consistent in their trophic roles across systems, with limited competition between these two sympatric mesopredators to be expected.