Comparative Feeding Ecology of Bull Sharks in the Southwest Indian OceanPublished on 21. October 2013
Comparative Feeding Ecology of Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) in the Coastal Waters of the Southwest Indian Ocean Inferred from Stable Isotope Analysis
Ryan Daly, Pierre W. Froneman, Malcolm J. Smale
As apex predators, sharks play an important role shaping their respective marine communities through predation and associated risk effects. Understanding the predatory dynamics of sharks within communities is, therefore, necessary to establish effective ecologically based conservation strategies. We employed non-lethal sampling methods to investigate the feeding ecology of bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) using stable isotope analysis within a subtropical marine community in the southwest Indian Ocean. The main objectives of this study were to investigate and compare the predatory role that sub-adult and adult bull sharks play within a top predatory teleost fish community. Bull sharks had significantly broader niche widths compared to top predatory teleost assemblages with a wide and relatively enriched range of δ13C values relative to the local marine community. This suggests that bull sharks forage from a more diverse range of δ13C sources over a wider geographical range than the predatory teleost community. Adult bull sharks appeared to exhibit a shift towards consistently higher trophic level prey from an expanded foraging range compared to sub-adults, possibly due to increased mobility linked with size. Although predatory teleost fish are also capable of substantial migrations, bull sharks may have the ability to exploit a more diverse range of habitats and appeared to prey on a wider diversity of larger prey. This suggests that bull sharks play an important predatory role within their respective marine communities and adult sharks in particular may shape and link ecological processes of a variety of marine communities over a broad range.
PLoS ONE 8(10): e78229. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078229