Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
Florida Coastal Everglades LTER - Project Information
Project Information

Spatial, temporal, and individual variation in the diet of juvenile bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) in a coastal estuary

Long-term project
Start date: May-2005          End date: Aug-2013
Contact person: Philip Matich
Funding organization(s):
National Science Foundation

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Juvenile bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) are one of the top predators in the Florida Coastal Everglades and prey on a variety of fish and invertebrate species. Through top-down and bottom-up effects, bull sharks can influence taxa in lower trophic levels directly and indirectly, which in turn can cascade down or up food web(s). Understanding the diet of bull sharks is thus important in understanding what prey species are most important for them, as well as the role sharks play within an ecosystem. Our lab has been sampling bull sharks within the Shark River Slough (Everglades National Park) since May 2005 using longlines in five distinct sampling regions. After sharks are captured, several tissues are collected for stable isotope analysis, which reveals the approximate trophic position and basal source of carbon for sampled individuals. Our goal is to elucidate how the diet of sharks changes with space and time, as well as determine the variation in diet within the population of our study site. Preliminary data suggests that bull sharks consume prey from marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitats and there is considerable individual variation within the population that may be attributed to capture location, season, and/or shark size. An understanding of bull shark diet is critical, because as top predators they have a large influence on the trophodynmaics of the system. By understanding trophic relationships, we can better predict how changes in predator and prey distribution may affect the movement of materials and energy throughout the ecosystem.

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National Science Foundation logo This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DEB-1237517, #DBI-0620409, and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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