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Foraging mode of the grey reef shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, under two different scenarios

Abstract

Knowledge of an animal’s predatory interactions provides insight into its ecological role. Until now, investigation of reef shark predation has relied on artificial stimuli to facilitate feeding events, with few sightings of natural predation events. Here we document two different foraging modes of the grey reef shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos (f. Carcharhinidae), recorded without the influence of baits or burley. The first mode saw an aggregation of sharks targeting a morning mass spawning event of marbled grouper (f. Serranidae). We observed 120 separate grouper spawns over a 104-min period. Detailed analysis of 52 spawns showed an average of five groupers and 2.7 sharks involved in each spawn, with sharks usually on site within 1.29 s of spawn initiation. The success rate of investigating sharks was relatively low (8.1 %), and conspecific competition, rather than cooperative behaviour, was repeatedly observed among sharks. The second foraging mode documented was the nocturnal predation of individual fishes in the same reef pass 2 weeks later. Here, 128 separate fish pursuits were observed, with fusiliers (f. Caesionidae) comprising 88 % of targeted individuals. Multiple sharks usually investigated each fish, with over 300 interaction events recorded. Over 100 bite attempts were observed, and again the rate of predation was low, with fish taken in only 5.3 % of investigations (16 % of attempted bites). Our findings show that grey reef sharks naturally prey on species across a range of trophic levels, employing foraging techniques optimised for prey species and circumstance. Although a high-order mesopredator, the low rates of predation success observed suggest that grey reef sharks may have limited direct impact on lower-trophic-order species; however, this remains to be verified.

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Acknowledgments

The work presented here was possible due to the generous support of the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF). We thank John Ruthven, Peter Kragh, Ernie Kovacs, Rodolphe Holler and the crew of the MY Heiva for use of their footage and field support. We also thank Sony Australia for their donation of both the Action Cams and housings, and the supplementary funding from Shark Defence Australia Inc. were given to WDR. We also thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments improved this paper. All research was completed under an agreement between KSLOF and Présidence de La Polynésie Française, Ministère en Charge de la Recherche and Délégation à la Recherche.

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Correspondence to W. D. Robbins.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Andrew Hoey

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Robbins, W.D., Renaud, P. Foraging mode of the grey reef shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, under two different scenarios. Coral Reefs 35, 253–260 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-015-1366-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-015-1366-z

Keywords

  • Prey selection
  • Feeding
  • Kinematics
  • Predation
  • Carcharhinid
  • Diet