Maternal provisioning gives young-of-the-year Hammerheads a head start in early life

Published on
06. October 2020

Maternal provisioning gives young-of-the-year Hammerheads a head start in early life

Kady Lyons, Ashley S. Galloway, Douglas H. Adams, Eric A. Reyier, Amanda M. Barker, David S. Portnoy, Bryan S. Frazier


For species that do not provide parental care after birth, excess maternal provisioning during development, beyond what is required for embryogenesis, provides offspring with resources to increase their chances of survival. Maternally derived resources are expected to be important for buffering offspring against limited food resources at birth or time needed to learn how to properly feed. Young-of-the-year (YOY) cryptic Scalloped Hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) and Carolina Hammerheads (Sphyrna gilberti) were sampled from nurseries along the US Atlantic Coast and compared for a number of biological condition metrics across three developmental stages. Large declines in liver lipid content and hepatosomatic indices were found in neonatal sharks, using umbilical scar healing as a proxy for time since birth. Feeding commenced quickly as 96% of sharks had prey remnants in their stomachs. The combination of rapid exhaustion of maternally provided resources and high occurrence of stomachs with prey contents indicate that nursery quality, with respect to prey availability, may be important for YOY hammerhead survivorship. While externally the two species are morphologically similar, longer length-at-birth in S. lewini and higher hepatic condition in neonatal S. gilberti suggest that aspects of reproductive biology, including physiology, may differ between species. While more information is needed to distinguish life history differences between these two species, data collected from YOY may serve as a useful proxy to inform management when adult samples of cryptic species are difficult to collect.

Mar Biol 167, 157 (2020). DOI: 10.1007/s00227-020-03766-y


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