Short-term shifts of stable isotope (δ13C, δ15N) values in juvenile sharks within nursery areas suggest rapid shifts in energy pathways

Philip Matich*, Jeremy J. Kiszka, Michael R. Heithaus, Johann Mourier, Serge Planes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


We quantified temporal changes in blood plasma δ13C and δ15N values collected from recaptured juvenile blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus, n=14) and sicklefin lemon sharks (Negaprion acutidens, n=4) at liberty in Moorea, French Polynesia for 10-50days, and juvenile bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas, n=7) at liberty in the Florida Coastal Everglades for 34-127days to investigate shifts in assimilated biomass from energy reserves and consumed biomass. Blacktip reef and bull sharks exhibited significant changes in plasma δ13C as they grew, with a mean δ δ13C/cm total length±SD of 0.41‰/cm±0.72 and-0.82‰/cm±0.67. While low sample sizes precluded statistical analyses, sicklefin lemon exhibited a change of 0.49‰/cm±0.77. Blacktip reef sharks and bull sharks also exhibited significant shifts in δ15N values-mean δ δ15N/cm TL±SD=-0.23‰/cm±0.59, and -0.24‰/cm±0.20; shifts in δ15N values for sicklefin lemon sharks averaged 0.19‰/cm±0.52. When data were normalized across species (accounting for species-specific difference in δ13C and δ15N ranges), no significant difference were found in the rate of δ15N change between bull and blacktip reef sharks, but mean changes in δ13C/day among blacktip reef and sicklefin lemon sharks (~1%/day) were twice as fast as bull sharks (~0.5%/day). Comparisons between plasma and muscle isotope values in bull sharks yielded similar results to comparisons of plasma isotope values - rapid changes in δ13C and δ15N. The magnitude and direction of changes in δ13C and δ15N values, however, were not uniform among individuals within each species, suggesting intraspecific variation in trophic interactions within the shark nurseries studied. Further studies quantifying shifts in energy pathways may contribute to elucidating the factors that shape foraging development in sharks and variation in trophic interactions within shark nurseries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-91
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Elasmobranch
  • Foraging development
  • Placentatrophic
  • Shark nursery

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