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Open Access Habitat partitioning and diurnal-nocturnal transition in the elasmobranch community of a North Carolina estuary

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In marine communities, resource partitioning can be as important as abiotic environmental preferences in determining habitat use patterns. Elasmobranchs are generally assumed to be crepuscular or nocturnal, but diel temporal habitat partitioning is poorly studied in this group. We attempted to identify habitat preferences and find evidence of resource partitioning among the elasmobranch community in Back and Core Sounds, North Carolina, using a multi-gear, fishery-independent survey with a temporal focus on the diurnal-nocturnal transition. Gillnet, longline, drumline, and rod-and-reel sampling captured a total of 160 elasmobranchs, representing 12 species within the estuary, and differences between the seven most abundant species were assessed in terms of temporal, environmental, and spatial habitat factors. The elasmobranch community was broadly divided into cool and warm temperature assemblages. Most species showed evidence of generalist habitat preferences, but spatial overlap between species was generally low. Blacknose sharks [Carcharhinus acronotus (Poey, 1860)] appeared to be nocturnal, and aggregations of smooth dogfish [Mustelus canis (Mitchill, 1815)] and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias Linnaeus, 1758) were found during mid-afternoon hours. Blacknose sharks and blacktip sharks [ Carcharhinus limbatus (Müller and Henle, 1839)] showed evidence of spatial resource partitioning based on distance from the nearest inlet. Temperature appears to be a strong influence on the presence of elasmobranch species within Back and Core Sounds, but behavioral interspecific avoidance may be a greater influence on fine-scale habitat use by elasmobranchs in this estuarine system.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, East Carolina University, East 5th St., Greenville, North Carolina 27858, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, 647 Contees Wharf Rd, Edgewater, Maryland 21037;, Email: [email protected] 2: Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, East Carolina University, East 5th St., Greenville, North Carolina 27858

Publication date: 01 April 2017

This article was made available online on 22 November 2016 as a Fast Track article with title: "Habitat partitioning and diurnal-nocturnal transition in the elasmobranch community of a North Carolina estuary".

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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