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New Study Suggests Coastal and Deep Ocean Sharks Have Different Feeding Patterns

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An international team of researchers studying globally declining shark populations report today that they used carbon isotopes as biochemical markers in shark muscle tissue to identify where in the oceans the mobile predators have been feeding, in the hope that such analyses provide a useful tool for conservation. Details appear in the current issue of Nature Ecology & Evolution.

An international team of researchers studying globally declining shark populations report today that they used carbon isotopes as biochemical markers in shark muscle tissue to identify where in the oceans the mobile predators have been feeding, in the hope that such analyses provide a useful tool for conservation. Details appear in the current issue of Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Michelle Staudinger, an adjunct faculty researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, worked with her former environmental conservation department colleagues Amy Teffer and Francis Juanes, now at the University of Victoria, Canada, and lead author Christopher Bird at the University of Southampton, U.K. With an international research team representing 73 scientists from 21 countries, they show that shelf-dwelling sharks forage in a range of different coastal food webs, while deeper ocean sharks seem to get most of their food from specific areas of colder water in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

As Bird explains, “We were able to show that sharks living close to land and those that live in the open ocean have very different ways of feeding.” He adds that knowing which parts of the world’s oceans are important shark feeding areas may help conservationists to design more effective ways to protect declining populations. He says there are over 500 shark species identified around the world but scientists still know little about their habits and behavior, particularly as related to feeding and movement.

Continue reading at University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst)

Image: Amy Teffer, part of an international team of researchers studying declining shark populations, takes a muscle sample from a mako shark. Teffer took part in the global shark research while a graduate student at UMass Amherst. Using chemical markers found in shark muscle tissue, the team reports that shelf-dwelling sharks forage in a range of different coastal food webs, while deeper ocean sharks seem to get most of their food from specific areas of colder water.

CREDIT: UMass Amherst