Resource-use dynamics of co-occurring chondrichthyans from the First Coast, North Florida, USA

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Recent studies on shark assemblages on the northeast Florida and southeast Georgia coast (hereafter referred to collectively as the “First Coast”) have demonstrated differences in species and age-class composition of catch from previously characterized estuaries and newly surveyed area beaches, demonstrating that these regions may provide a critical habitat to different segments (i.e., life stages) of local shark populations. In this study, carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) from muscle tissue and blood plasma were used to examine trophic dynamics (and temporal variability thereof) of the three dominant co-occurring species found along First Coast beaches (the Atlantic Sharpnose shark Rhizoprionodon terraenovae, Blacknose shark Carcharhinus acronotus and Blacktip shark Carcharhinus limbatus) to determine if they exhibit overlap in resource use along with spatial and temporal habitat use. Although considered spatially segregated from the beach species, a dominant, age-class species found in First Coast estuaries (juvenile Sandbar sharks Carcharhinus plumbeus) was also included in this analysis for comparison. Temporal variability of resource-use characteristics was detected at the species level. Resource-use overlap among species varied by tissue type and was generally higher for blood plasma, suggesting greater resource sharing over more recent time periods. Over longer time periods Atlantic Sharpnose and Blacktip sharks exhibited resource-use expansion, whereas Blacknose sharks exhibited a narrowing in resource use, suggesting a more specialized foraging strategy compared to the other species. The resource-use breadth of Sandbar sharks also expanded between blood plasma and muscle tissue. Significant size relationships were detected in Blacktip and Sandbar sharks, indicating ontogenetic resource shifts for both species. A diversity of highly productive resource pools likely support shark populations along the First Coast such that resource-use differentiation is not required to facilitate species co-occurrence. This work may shed light on understanding patterns of species co-occurrence as well as aid in future conservation efforts.

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Journal of Fish Biology





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