Population and individual foraging patterns of two hammerhead sharks

paper3Published online on 25. March 2015

Population and individual foraging patterns of two hammerhead sharks using carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes

P. Loor-Andrade, F. Galván-Magaña, F. R. Elorriaga-Verplancken, C. Polo-Silva,
A. Delgado-Huerta


Individual foraging behavior is an important variable of predators commonly studied at the population level. Some hammerhead shark species play a significant role in the marine ecosystem as top consumers. In this context, stable isotope analysis allows us to infer some ecological metrics and patterns that cannot usually be obtained using traditional methods.

We determined the isotopic composition (δ13C and δ15N values) of dorsal muscle and vertebrae of Sphyrna lewini and Sphyrna zygaena using a continuous-flow system consisting of an elemental analyzer combined with a Delta Plus XL mass spectrometer. Foraging variability by sex and by individual was inferred from the isotopic values.

There were no significant differences in the isotopic values of muscle samples between sexes, but there were differences between species. The trophic niche breadth of the two species was similar and overlap was low. A low niche overlap was observed between S. lewini individual vertebrae. We found differences in the δ15N values of S. zygaena vertebrae, with lower values in the first group of samples.

Despite these hammerhead shark species inhabiting the same area, there was low trophic niche overlap between species and individuals, due to different individual foraging strategies, according to the carbon and nitrogen isotopic profiles obtained. The use of tissues that retain lifetime isotopic information is useful to complement studies on trophic ecology.

Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, Vol. 29: 821–829. doi: 10.1002/rcm.7169



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