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Dietary comparisons of six skate species (Rajidae) in south-eastern Australian waters
journal contributionposted on 2007-10-01, 00:00 authored by M A Treloar, Laurie Laurenson, J D Stevens
The diet of six skate species caught as bycatch in south-eastern Australian waters was examined over a 2-year period. The skates were segregated into two regions (continental shelf and continental slope) based on prey species and depth of capture. The shelf group consisted of four species, Dipturus sp. A, D. cerva, D. lemprieri and D. whitleyi, while the slope group comprised two species, Dipturus sp. B and D. gudgeri. The two groups varied in feeding strategies with the shelf species generally occupying a broader feeding niche and preying on a larger diversity of prey including a variety of crustaceans (brachyurans, anomurans, achelates, carideans and dendobranchiates), cephalopods, elasmobranchs and teleosts. Within the slope group, Dipturus sp. B and D. gudgeri were more specialised. Dipturus sp. B preyed primarily on anomurans (galatheids) and bachyurans (homolids), whereas D. gudgeri preyed primarily on teleosts. A size related change in diet was evident for all species with the exception of D. gudgeri in which all sizes preyed predominantly on teleosts. Smaller representatives of the four shelf species all preyed on numerous amounts of caridean shrimps, in particular Leptochela sydniensis. In contrast, the continental slope species, Dipturus sp. B consumed anomurans when small, shifting to brachyurans with increasing size. Of the six skate species examined in this study, three were secondary consumers (trophic level < 3) and the remaining three tertiary consumers (trophic level > 4). Although ANOSIM found significant differences in dietary composition between species within groups, there was some overlap in prey species amongst co-existing skates, which suggests that there is some degree of resource partitioning amongst them.