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Diets of Atlantic Sharpnose Shark (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) and Bonnethead (Sphyrna tiburo) in the northern Gulf of Mexico

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Diets of two coastal sharks, Atlantic Sharpnose Shark (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) and Bonnethead (Sphyrna tiburo), were examined along the Texas and Alabama coasts in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Atlantic Sharpnose Sharks were collected from the northwest (n= 209) and northcentral (n= 245) GOM regions while Bonnetheads were collected from two locations within the northwest GOM (Galveston, Texas, n= 164; Matagorda, Texas, n= 79). Dietary analysis was conducted using stomach contents identified to the lowest taxonomic level, which were quantified using the index of relative importance (IRI) and non-parametric statistical analyses. Atlantic Sharpnose Sharks were revealed to be primarily piscivorous, with an overall %IRI of 79.76% for teleost fishes. Bonnetheads were shown to prey primarily on crustaceans (90.94% IRI), mainly crabs (22.06% IRI). Diets for Atlantic Sharpnose Sharks and Bonnetheads were evaluated by region and ontogeny, where variations by ontogeny were examined based on length at 50% maturity (L50) values, delineating mature from immature individuals. Atlantic Sharpnose Sharks and Bonnetheads showed a decrease in dietary prey species richness from juveniles to adults using %IRI. Regional dietary differences existed with Atlantic Sharpnose Sharks from the northwest GOM consuming more crustaceans than conspecifics from the northcentral GOM. Bonnetheads collected from Galveston, TX consumed more crab than Bonnetheads from Matagorda, TX, while Bonnetheads from Matagorda, TX displayed a diet with higher prey species richness. Our results highlight differences in diets of two common shark species at both local and regional spatial scales.

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