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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 687:125-132 (2022)  -  DOI:

Phoretic sharksuckers Echeneis naucrates associated with an elasmobranch host occupy higher relative trophic positions

Cheston T. Peterson1,*, Beverly A. Bachman2, Richard T. Kraus3, R. Dean Grubbs4

1Florida State University, Department of Biological Science, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA
2George Mason University, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA
3U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Lake Erie Biological Station, Sandusky, OH 44870, USA
4Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, St. Teresa, FL 32358, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The relationship between phoretic diskfishes and their hosts is a classic example of marine symbiosis, yet surprisingly few studies have quantified this trophic relationship. We investigated the hypothesis that by consuming host parasites and prey scraps phoretic diskfishes (Echeneidae) feed at a higher relative trophic position than free-living individuals through expanded foraging opportunities. We used carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis of muscle tissue from both free-living and commensal sharksuckers Echeneis naucrates and their hosts, supplemented with gut-content analysis, to investigate this hypothesis. Our analysis revealed that commensal sharksuckers likely occupy higher relative trophic positions than free-living sharksuckers. The importance of scavenging host prey decreased ontogenetically as sharksuckers shifted from symbiotic phoresis to free-swimming behavior, leading to an ontogenetic change in which obligately commensal juveniles occupy higher trophic positions than free-living adults which are only facultatively commensal. Relative differences in δ13C and δ15N among individual host-commensal pairs varied among host species, suggesting potential differences in foraging opportunities among host taxa.

KEY WORDS: Symbiosis · Species interactions · Phoresis · Commensalism · Behavioral ecology · Trophic ecology · Stable isotope analysis · Elasmobranch

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Cite this article as: Peterson CT, Bachman BA, Kraus RT, Grubbs RD (2022) Phoretic sharksuckers Echeneis naucrates associated with an elasmobranch host occupy higher relative trophic positions. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 687:125-132.

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