Two’s company, three’s a crowd: fine-scale habitat partitioning by depth among sympatric species of marine mesopredator

Humphries, NE, Simpson, SJ, Wearmouth, VJ and Sims, DW 2016 Two’s company, three’s a crowd: fine-scale habitat partitioning by depth among sympatric species of marine mesopredator. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 561. 173-187.

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A sympatric assemblage of morphologically similar predators is expected to exhibit fine-scale habitat segregation, or resource partitioning, to reduce the effects of direct competition. This principle has been well studied for predators in terrestrial ecosystems. In the marine environment, how sympatric species of large predators spatially segregate at the fine-scale is poorly understood because detailed movement and behavioural data is often not available across multiple species within the same timeframe. How co-occurring congeneric predators separate spatially is even less well understood. Medium sized species of skates (Genus Raja) co-occur in temperate habitats of the north-east Atlantic Ocean, share similar morphologies and have distributional ranges that overlap significantly in the western English Channel ecosystem. Here, detailed depth time series retrieved from 89 electronic data storage tags attached to four species of skate were analysed to determine preferred depth ranges. The four species were found to segregate spatially into two groups, with one group having a significantly shallower core annual depth range than the other. To our knowledge fine-scale segregation by depth has not been observed previously. Interestingly the members of each species group appeared complementary, each group comprising species having different dietary preferences and with a larger and smaller body size. An understanding of how core depth ranges differ and how these species utilise vertical habitat has potential to predict geographic ranges around the coast with important implications for how these species interact with fisheries and Marine Protected Areas.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Subjects: Biology
Ecology and Environment
Marine Sciences
Divisions: Marine Biological Association of the UK > Ocean Biology
Depositing User: Nick Humphries
Date made live: 20 Sep 2017 09:22
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2024 16:54

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