Cookiecutter shark bite patterns on pelagic fishes

Published on
20 April 2022

Cookiecutter shark (Isistius spp.) bite patterns on pelagic fishes in aggregated schools in the western equatorial Atlantic Ocean

Rafael Menezes, João Paulo Dantas Marinho, Grazielly Campos de Mesquita, Guelson Batista da Silva


Cookiecutter sharks are pelagic ectoparasites that feed on pieces of flesh from large marine animals. Knowledge on these sharks is still rather scant, with the few existing works successfully using bites found on prey to reveal ecological patterns. This study aims to identify cookiecutter shark bite patterns on pelagic fishes in aggregated schools to gain an understanding of the ecology of these sharks. Data were collected by accompanying landings and onboard in tuna fishing vessels in the western equatorial Atlantic Ocean off Brazil. A total of 138 bite wounds were found on the bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus), skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), and yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares). The most bitten species were the bigeye and yellowfin tuna, together accounting for 85% of all bites. Our findings offer novel insights into ectoparasitic ecology between cookiecutter sharks and pelagic fishes, identifying three major patterns: (i) preference of the sharks for the ventral surface of pelagic fishes; (ii) plasticity in biting tactics, with both bottom-up and lateral attacks; and (iii) habitat-dependent bite incidence (larger sharks commonly bite the skipjack tuna in epipelagic zones, whereas smaller sharks predominantly bite the bigeye tuna in mesopelagic zones). These results contribute to narrowing the gaps in knowledge on the ecology of the elusive, dwarf cookiecutter sharks. Further studies are needed for a better understanding of how shark-pelagic fish interactions are affected by the fishing of aggregated schools.

Environ Biol Fish (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10641-022-01257-1


Leave a Reply