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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 638:107-121 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13261

Neonatal nutritional strategy of a viviparous elasmobranch with extremely low reproductive output

Bianca de Sousa Rangel1,*, Nigel Edward Hussey2, Yuri Niella3, Luiz Antonio Martinelli4, Aline Dal’Olio Gomes1, Renata Guimarães Moreira1

1Laboratório de Metabolismo e Reprodução de Organismos Aquáticos, Departamento de Fisiologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo, Rua do Matão, Travessa 14, 321, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo 05508-090, SP, Brazil
2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada
3Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, New South Wales 2109, Australia
4Departamento de Ecologia Isotópica, Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura (CENA), Universidade de São Paulo, Piracicaba, São Paulo 13416-000, Brazil
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Throughout evolutionary history, elasmobranchs have developed diverse reproductive strategies. Little focused work, however, has addressed how neonatal nutritional state is affected by differing degrees of maternal investment associated with these markedly different reproductive strategies. To investigate the effect of maternal investment on the nutritional quality of pups during the early life history of an extremely viviparous elasmobranch, quantitative biomarker analysis including lipids, fatty acids and stable isotopes was conducted. Using the cownose ray Rhinoptera bonasus (histotrophic viviparous) as a model, we found that pups were initially born in a positive nutritional state, enriched in physiologically important essential fatty acids and nitrogen and carbon stable isotope values (δ15N and δ13C), a result of maternal intrauterine transfer. A systematic decrease in some fatty acids and δ15N values, as well as a decrease in cholesterol with growth, confirmed that these substrates were derived from maternal resources and used in initial metabolic processes following birth. An observed increase in condition factor, plasma essential fatty acids and triglyceride:cholesterol ratio with increasing body size identified a progression towards successful independent foraging with pups not displaying marked nutritional deficiency or fasting phases. Our multi-tracer approach allowed the identification of 2 size classes of young rays (<50 and <70 cm disc width) that displayed distinct physiological states. Since prenatal maternal investment is critical for offspring condition and to promote successful foraging post birth, understanding the trophic ecology and physiological state of pups during their first year is critical to guide management and conservation within nursery grounds.


KEY WORDS: Maternal investment · Nutritional quality · Early life history · Cownose ray · Fatty acid profile · Stable isotope · Energy metabolism · Non-lethal methods


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Cite this article as: Rangel BS, Hussey NE, Niella Y, Martinelli LA, Gomes AD, Moreira RG (2020) Neonatal nutritional strategy of a viviparous elasmobranch with extremely low reproductive output. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 638:107-121. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13261

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