The vulnerability of sharks, skates, and rays to ocean deoxygenation: Physiological mechanisms, behavioral responses, and ecological impacts

Waller, MJ, Humphries, NE, Womersley, F, Loveridge, A, Jeffries, AL, Southall, EJ, Sims, DW, Watanabe, Y, Semmens, JM and Payne, N 2024 The vulnerability of sharks, skates, and rays to ocean deoxygenation: Physiological mechanisms, behavioral responses, and ecological impacts. Journal of Fish Biology.

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Levels of dissolved oxygen in open ocean and coastal waters are decreasing (ocean deoxygenation), with poorly understood effects on marine megafauna. All of the more than 1000 species of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays) are obligate water breathers, with a variety of life-history strategies and oxygen requirements. This review demonstrates that although many elasmobranchs typically avoid hypoxic water, they also appear capable of withstanding mild to moderate hypoxia with changes in activity, ventilatory responses, alterations to circulatory and hematological parameters, and morphological alterations to gill structures. However, such strategies may be insufficient to withstand severe, progressive, or prolonged hypoxia or anoxia where anaerobic metabolic pathways may be used for limited periods. As water temperatures increase with climate warming, ectothermic elasmobranchs will exhibit elevated metabolic rates and are likely to be less able to tolerate the effects of even mild hypoxia associated with deoxygenation. As a result, sustained hypoxic conditions in warmer coastal or surface-pelagic waters are likely to lead to shifts in elasmobranch distributions. Mass mortalities of elasmobranchs linked directly to deoxygenation have only rarely been observed but are likely underreported. One key concern is how reductions in habitat volume as a result of expanding hypoxia resulting from deoxygenation will influence interactions between elasmobranchs and industrial fisheries. Catch per unit of effort of threatened pelagic sharks by longline fisheries, for instance, has been shown to be higher above oxygen minimum zones compared to adjacent, normoxic regions, and attributed to vertical habitat compression of sharks overlapping with increased fishing effort. How a compound stressor such as marine heatwaves alters vulnerability to deoxygenation remains an open question. With over a third of elasmobranch species listed as endangered, a priority for conservation and management now lies in understanding and mitigating ocean deoxygenation effects in addition to population declines already occurring from overfishing.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Additional Keywords: biologging, climate change, conservation, extreme events, respirometry, telemetry
Subjects: Conservation
Ecology and Environment
Marine Sciences
Divisions: Marine Biological Association of the UK > Ocean Biology
Depositing User: Ms Kristina Hixon
Date made live: 05 Jul 2024 07:49
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2024 07:49

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