Diel and seasonal variation in the use of a nearshore sandflat by a ray community in a near pristine system
Knowledge of movements and habitat use is necessary to assess a species’ ecological role and is especially important for mesopredators because they provide the link between upper and lower trophic levels. Using acoustic telemetry, we examined coarse-scale diel and seasonal movements of elasmobranch mesopredators on a shallow sandflat in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Giant shovelnose rays (Glaucostegus typus) and reticulate whiprays (Himantura uarnak) were most often detected in nearshore microhabitats and were regularly detected throughout the day and year, although reticulate whiprays tended to frequent the monitored array over longer periods. Pink whiprays (H. fai) and cowtail stingrays (Pastinachus atrus) were also detected throughout the day, but were far less frequently detected. Overall, there was no apparent spatial or temporal partitioning of the sandflats, but residency to the area varied between species. In addition, ray presence throughout the year suggests that previously observed differences in seasonal abundance are likely because of seasonal changes in habitat use rather than large-scale migrations. Continuous use of the sandflats and limited movements within this ray community suggests that rays have the potential to be a structuring force on this system and that focusing on nearshore habitats is important for managing subtropical ray populations.
Vaudo, J.J., M.R. Heithaus. 2012. Diel and seasonal variation in the use of a nearshore sandflat by a ray community in a near pristine system. Marine and Freshwater Research 63: 1077-1084.