Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 6, pp 1183–1196 | Cite as

The trophic ecology of two abundant mesopredators in south-east coastal waters of Tasmania, Australia

  • Jonah L. Yick
  • Adam Barnett
  • Sean R. Tracey
Original Paper


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.


Prey Species Empty Stomach Prey Category Apex Predator Pelagic Prey 
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.



The authors thank T. Alexander, C. Macleod, J. Semmens and G. Pecl for their aid in invertebrate identifications, R. Sakabe for his assistance with some of the statistical analyses, and K. Redd for generously running the DNA analyses on specimens unable to be identified visually. We also thank all volunteer students who assisted in the field and laboratory work. This study was supported by grants to A. B. from the Save Our Seas Foundation, Winifred Violet Scott Foundation and the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment. All research was conducted under the approval of the Department of Primary Industries and Water permit (8028) and the University of Tasmania Ethics Committee (A0009120).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonah L. Yick
    • 1
    • 2
  • Adam Barnett
    • 1
  • Sean R. Tracey
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Marine and Antarctic StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Inland Fisheries ServiceNew NorfolkAustralia

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