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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 315:259-270 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps315259

Food habits, selectivity, and foraging modes of the school shark Galeorhinus galeus

Luis O. Lucifora1,*, Verónica B. García1, Roberto C. Menni2,3, Alicia H. Escalante3,4

1Dalhousie University, Department of Biology, Life Sciences Centre, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada
2Museo de La Plata, Departamento Científico Zoología Vertebrados, Paseo del Bosque s/n, La Plata B1900FWA, Argentina
3Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina
4Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Departamento de Biología, Funes 3250, Segundo Piso, Mar del Plata B7602AYJ, Argentina

ABSTRACT: The foraging ecology of the school shark Galeorhinus galeus was studied in Anegada Bay, Argentina, during the seasonal occurrence of this species in Argentinean waters (October to April) from 1998 to 2001. Of the 408 individuals examined, 168 (41.2%) had food remains in their stomachs. The proportion of individuals with food remains was negatively correlated with total length. In general, the diet was composed mainly of teleosts (98.5% IRI [index of relative importance]), with invertebrates and chondrichthyans as minor prey. The diet varied ontogenetically and seasonally. Juveniles and adults differed in their consumption of invertebrates, with juveniles preying more on benthic invertebrates, mainly the octopus Octopus tehuelchus, and adults on squid. From December to February, adults preyed mainly on benthic teleosts (almost exclusively the Atlantic midshipman Porichthys porosissimus), while from March to April the consumption of squid increased. A comparison of numbers of prey in stomachs with abundance of prey in the environment in March and April showed that, in these months, juveniles selected invertebrates and demersal teleosts and avoided pelagic teleosts and chondricthyan prey, and adults selected squid and avoided pelagic teleosts. This indicates that, during this period, G. galeus is not an opportunistic predator. The mean size of prey increased with increasing shark length, but even large sharks consumed small prey. All shark sizes consumed prey fragments that were significantly larger than other prey consumed whole. This indicates that G. galeus is able to overcome gape limitation by mutilating prey, and that the ontogenetic diet shift was not due to a change in the ability to seize prey.

KEY WORDS: Galeorhinus galeus · School shark · Predation · Piscivory · Diet · Gape limitation · Elasmobranch · Chondrichthyes

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