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Feeding habits and trophic level of the smooth hammerhead shark, Sphyrna zygaena (Carcharhiniformes: Sphyrnidae), off Ecuador

  • Colombo Estupiñán-Montaño (a1) (a2), Luis Cedeño-Figueroa (a3), José F. Estupiñán-Ortiz (a1), Felipe Galván-Magaña (a4), Alejandro Sandoval-Londoño (a1) (a5), David Castañeda-Suarez (a6) and Carlos J. Polo-Silva (a6)...


As apex predators, sharks are known to play an important role in marine food webs. Detailed information on their diet and trophic level is however needed to make clear inferences about their role in the ecosystem. A total of 335 stomachs of smooth hammerhead sharks, Sphyrna zygaena, were obtained from commercial fishing vessels operating in the Ecuadorian Pacific between January and December 2004. A total of 53 prey items were found in the stomachs. According to the Index of Relative Importance (%IRI), cephalopods were the main prey (Dosidicus gigas, Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis, Ancistrocheirus lesueurii and Lolliguncula [Loliolopsis] diomedeae). Sphyrna zygaena was thus confirmed to be a teutophagous species. The estimated trophic level of S. zygaena was between 4.6 and 5.1 (mean ± SD: 4.7 ± 0.16; males: 4.7; females: 4.8). Levin's index (BA) was low (overall: 0.07; males: 0.08; females: 0.09), indicating a narrow trophic niche. We found that sharks <150 cm in total length consumed prey of coastal origin, whereas sharks ≥150 cm foraged in oceanic waters and near the continental shelf. The analyses indicate that S. zygaena is a specialized predator consuming mainly squids.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: F. Galván-Magaña, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas, Av. IPN s/n, La Paz, Baja California Sur, C.P. 23096, Mexico email:


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