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Dietary analysis reveals the vulnerability of the endangered Maugean skate (Zearaja maugeana) to benthic changes in Macquarie Harbour

Weltz, K, Lyle, JM ORCID: 0000-0001-9670-5854, Bell, JD ORCID: 0000-0002-1926-7501 and Semmens, JM ORCID: 0000-0003-1742-6692 2018 , 'Dietary analysis reveals the vulnerability of the endangered Maugean skate (Zearaja maugeana) to benthic changes in Macquarie Harbour' , Marine and Freshwater Research , pp. 1-9 , doi: 10.1071/MF18231.

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Species occupying high trophic positions with a small population size, limited diet and restricted range are vulnerable to extinction. The endangered Maugean skate (Zearaja maugeana) in Macquarie Harbour is potentially threatened by changing benthic environmental conditions (declining dissolved oxygen concentrations and decreased macrofaunal diversity). To inform investigations on potential indirect impacts of benthic environmental changes on the Maugean skate and its prey, non-lethal techniques were used to identify dietary composition and trophic position of the species. The Maugean skate occupies a high trophic position (3.70) in the food web, with both stable-isotope (median 86% contribution to isotopic signatures, credible interval (CI) = 44–100%) and stomach-content analysis showing crustaceans, particularly brachyuran crabs (58.5% index of relative importance), as the dominant prey type. Aquaculture feed from salmonid fish farms operating in the harbour was not found to be important in skate diet. This study showed that the Maugean skate consumes a small number of benthic prey species, highlighting its vulnerability to changing environmental conditions in the harbour.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Weltz, K and Lyle, JM and Bell, JD and Semmens, JM
Keywords: endangered elasmobranch, stable isotope analysis, trophic position, stomach-content analysis, stable isotope mixing model
Journal or Publication Title: Marine and Freshwater Research
Publisher: C S I R O Publishing
ISSN: 1323-1650
DOI / ID Number: 10.1071/MF18231
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2018 the authors.

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