Patterns of resource use and isotopic niche overlap among three species of sharks occurring within a protected subtropical estuary

Austin J. Gallagher*, David S. Shiffman, Evan E. Byrnes, C. M. Hammerschlag-Peyer, N. Hammerschlag

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    Predation is one of the most fundamental and unifying concepts in ecology, and we are beginning to obtain a more complete understanding of how predators drive community structure and ecosystem function through their impacts on prey. We know considerably less about how predators affect each other through intraguild interactions, which is surprising considering predators often occur simultaneously and may compete for resources while avoiding being killed themselves. In the present study, we examined aspects of inter- and intra-specific resource use among three species of large-bodied predatory sharks (blacktip, bull, lemon) co-occurring within a subtropical, protected bay in the southeastern USA. Specifically, we inferred relative trophic position, isotopic niche overlap, and patterns of resource use of sharks using stable isotope analysis of carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 from blood and fin cartilage samples. We also combined these approaches with estimates of abundance and occurrence from empirical shark surveys to consider whether these species may exhibit resource partitioning in space and time. We found that all three species overlapped in space, and there was some isotopic niche overlap between the species. We also found evidence of temporal isotopic niche stability, suggesting that co-occurring shark species may compete for available prey resources, but individuals of those species may have similar patterns of resource use over time. We discuss our findings as they relate to the ecologies of the species in question and how sound conservation and management of ecosystems can allow for predator diversity, sympatry, and stable use of resources at the top of the food chain.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)435-448
    Number of pages14
    JournalAquatic Ecology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


    • feeding
    • intraguild
    • partitioning
    • predation risk
    • predator
    • shark


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