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Temporal niche partitioning as a novel mechanism promoting co-existence of sympatric predators in marine systems

Lear, K.O., Whitney, N.M., Morris, J.J. and Gleiss, A.C. (2021) Temporal niche partitioning as a novel mechanism promoting co-existence of sympatric predators in marine systems. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288 (1954).

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Niche partitioning of time, space or resources is considered the key to allowing the coexistence of competitor species, and particularly guilds of predators. However, the extent to which these processes occur in marine systems is poorly understood due to the difficulty in studying fine-scale movements and activity patterns in mobile underwater species. Here, we used acceleration data-loggers to investigate temporal partitioning in a guild of marine predators. Six species of co-occurring large coastal sharks demonstrated distinct diel patterns of activity, providing evidence of strong temporal partitioning of foraging times. This is the first instance of diel temporal niche partitioning described in a marine predator guild, and is probably driven by a combination of physiological constraints in diel timing of activity (e.g. sensory adaptations) and interference competition (hierarchical predation within the guild), which may force less dominant predators to suboptimal foraging times to avoid agonistic interactions. Temporal partitioning is often thought to be rare compared to other partitioning mechanisms, but the occurrence of temporal partitioning here and similar characteristics in many other marine ecosystems (multiple predators simultaneously present in the same space with dietary overlap) introduces the question of whether this is a common mechanism of resource division in marine systems.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Royal Society of London
Copyright: © 2021 The Authors.
United Nations SDGs: Goal 14: Life Below Water
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