MEPS 539:225-240 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11494

Unravelling the ecological role and trophic relationships of uncommon and threatened elasmobranchs in the western Mediterranean Sea

Claudio Barría1,*, Marta Coll1,2, Joan Navarro1,3 

1Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
2Institute de Recherche pour le Développent (IRD). UMR MARBEC, Avenue Jean Monnet BP171, 34203 Sète Cedex, France
3Department of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n, Sevilla 41092, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Deficiencies in basic ecological information on uncommon and endangered elasmobranch fishes impair the assessment of their ecological role in marine ecosystems. In this study, we examined the feeding ecology (diet composition and trophic level) and trophic relationships of 22 elasmobranchs (2 Carcharhiniformes, 1 Hexanchiformes, 1 Lamniformes, 3 Myliobatiformes, 6 Rajiformes, 6 Squaliformes and 3 Torpediniformes) present in the western Mediterranean Sea. To obtain a comprehensive view of the feeding ecology of these species, we combined different approaches: stable isotope analyses (δ13C and δ15N values), stomach content analyses and published sources. Our results revealed differences in feeding strategies among elasmobranch groups: skates (Rajiformes) mainly consume crustaceans; sharks (Carcharhiniformes, Hexanchiformes, Squaliformes and Lamniformes) prefer mixed diets composed of cephalopods, crustaceans and fishes; electric rays (Torpediniformes) feed mostly on fishes; and the diet of stingrays (Myliobatiformes) varies between species. Sharks and electric rays show higher trophic positions than skates, and the former occupy similar positions to other apex predators. Skates are more similar to other mesopredator fishes. These new findings offer essential information on the ecological role of several elasmobranchs in the western Mediterranean Sea and provide useful data for managers for future conservation strategies.


KEY WORDS: Mediterranean Sea · Rays · Sharks · Skates · Species at risk · Stable isotopes · Trophic ecology · Trophic level


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Cite this article as: Barría C, Coll M, Navarro J (2015) Unravelling the ecological role and trophic relationships of uncommon and threatened elasmobranchs in the western Mediterranean Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 539:225-240. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11494

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