Tuesday, 2 October 2012

White Shark Diets Vary With Age and Among Individuals

ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2012) — Many white sharks shift from fish to marine mammals as they mature, but individual sharks show surprising variability in dietary preferences.

White sharks, the largest predatory sharks in the ocean, are thought of as apex predators that feed primarily on seals and sea lions. But a new study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows surprising variability in the dietary preferences of individual sharks.

The researchers described their findings in a paper published online September 28 in PLoS ONE. They analyzed the composition of growth bands in shark vertebrae to trace variations in diet over a shark's lifetime. Stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen incorporated into an animal's tissues serve as a natural tracer of dietary inputs.

"We did find that white shark diets changed with age, as expected, but we were surprised that the patterns and extent of change differed among individuals," said Sora Kim, who led the study as a UCSC graduate student and is now at the University of Wyoming.

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