Short- and long-term importance of small sharks in the diet of the rare deep-sea shark Dalatias licha

Abstract

Knowing the trophic ecology of marine predators is essential to develop an understanding of their ecological role in ecosystems. Research conducted on deep-sea and threatened shark species is limited. Here, by combining analyses of individual stomach contents and stable isotope values, we examined the trophic ecology (dietary composition and trophic position) of the kitefin shark Dalatias licha, a deep-sea shark considered as near threatened globally and as data deficient in the Mediterranean Sea. Results revealed the importance of small sharks in the diet of the kitefin shark at short- and long-term scales, although fin-fish, crustaceans and cephalopods were also found. Predation on sharks reveals the high trophic position of the kitefin shark within the food web of the western Mediterranean Sea. Stable isotope values from liver and muscle tissues confirmed our results from stomach content analysis and the high trophic position.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge Marta Albo-Puigserver, Isabel Palomera, Joan B. Company and A. Lombarte for their help in the collection of specimens and laboratory work. Also, special thanks to IEO and the fishermen of Tarragona for allowing us to collect the samples in the Gulf of Lions and Tarragona coast, respectively. Ricardo Álvarez helped in the stable isotope analysis. Sarah Young revised the English. Owen S. Wangensteen and Lluis Cardona provide interesting suggestions in a preliminary draft. Thanks to Aaron Fisk and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestion to improve the manuscript. JN and MC were supported by a research contract of the Marie Curie Career Integration Grant Fellowships to the BIOWEB project. MC was also funded by a postdoctoral contract of the Ramon y Cajal Program (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competiveness). CB was supported by a doctoral fellowship CONICYT-Becas Chile. This study forms a contribution to the project ECOTRANS (CTM2011-26333, Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Spain). The authors declare that all experimental procedures were conducted in strict accordance with good animal practice as defined by the current Spanish, Catalonian and European legislation.

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Correspondence to Joan Navarro.

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Communicated by C. Harrod.

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Navarro, J., López, L., Coll, M. et al. Short- and long-term importance of small sharks in the diet of the rare deep-sea shark Dalatias licha . Mar Biol 161, 1697–1707 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-014-2454-2

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Keywords

  • Stomach Content
  • Trophic Position
  • Stomach Content Analysis
  • Prey Group
  • Shark Species