Scientia Marina, Vol 74, No 1 (2010)

Body morphometrics, swimming diversity and niche in demersal sharks: a comparative case study from the Mediterranean Sea

Umberto Scacco
I .S.P.R.A ex I.C.R.A.M, Roma, Italy

Gabriele La Mesa
I .S.P.R.A ex I.C.R.A.M, Roma, Italy

Marino Vacchi
I .S.P.R.A ex I.C.R.A.M, Roma, Italy


Seven demersal shark species belonging to six families, obtained from the southern Mediterranean Sea, were selected as representative of different putative swimming modes, inhabited depths and trophic levels. Caudal fin morphometrics (caudal fin span, area and aspect ratio), hepatosomatic index and muscular-skeletal amount per unit length were estimated and compared within and among species by means of both parametric and non-parametric multivariate and univariate statistical procedures. Intra-specific variation was related to size and, for one species only, also to sex. Two inter-specific patterns of variation were observed: the first pattern was interpreted as a swimming ability gradient between slow benthic and more pelagic species, as a function of caudal morphometry and body characteristics; the second pattern is related to the depth the species inhabit and/or their trophic level. These two hypotheses were tested with the current data and literature information, and discussed in the context of shark swimming modes, habit and environment. Based on observed differences in caudal fin morphometrics, liver and muscular masses, this paper is the first to provide a quantitative and comparative dataset for demersal sharks as a group, and attempts to describe sample variability as a function of expected swimming ability and occupied niche (depth inhabited and/or trophic level).


demersal sharks; swimming ability; tail aspect ratio; hepatosomatic index

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