MEPS 524:255-268 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11188

Feeding ecology and trophic position of three sympatric demersal chondrichthyans in the northwestern Mediterranean

Marta Albo-Puigserver1,*, Joan Navarro1,2, Marta Coll1,3, Jacopo Aguzzi1, Luis Cardona4, Raquel Sáez-Liante1

1Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
2Department of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n, Sevilla 41092, Spain
3Laboratoire Écosystèmes Marins Exploités UMR 212, IRD-IFREMER-UM2, Avenue Jean Monnet BP171, 34203 Sète Cedex, France
4Departament de Biologia Animal and Institut de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avinguda Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Understanding how marine predators interact is a scientific challenge. In marine ecosystems, segregation in feeding habits has been largely described as a common mechanism to allow the coexistence of several competing marine predators. However, little is known about the feeding ecology of most species of chondrichthyans, which play a pivotal role in the structure of marine food webs worldwide. In this study, we examined the trophic ecology of 3 relatively abundant chondrichthyans coexisting in the Mediterranean Sea: the blackmouth catshark Galeus melastomus, the velvet belly lanternshark Etmopterus spinax and the rabbit fish Chimaera monstrosa. To examine their trophic ecology and interspecific differences in food habits, we combined the analysis of stomach content and stable isotopes. Our results highlighted a trophic segregation between C. monstrosa and the other 2 species. G. melastomus showed a diet composed mainly of cephalopods, while E. spinax preyed mainly on shrimps and C. monstrosa on crabs. Interspecific differences in the trophic niche were likely due to different feeding capabilities and body size. Each species showed different isotopic niche space and trophic level. Specifically, C. monstrosa showed a higher trophic level than E. spinax and G. melastomus. The high trophic levels of the 3 species highlighted their important role as predators in the marine food web. Our results illustrate the utility of using complementary approaches that provide information about the feeding behaviour at short (stomach content) and long-term scales (stable isotopes), which could allow more efficient monitoring of marine food-web changes in the study area.


KEY WORDS: Feeding niche · Isotope analysis · Mediterranean Sea · Galeus melastomus · Etmopterus spinax · Chimaera monstrosa


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Cite this article as: Albo-Puigserver M, Navarro J, Coll M, Aguzzi J, Cardona L, Sáez-Liante R (2015) Feeding ecology and trophic position of three sympatric demersal chondrichthyans in the northwestern Mediterranean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 524:255-268. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11188

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