Scientia Marina, Vol 75, No 4 (2011)

Elasmobranch spatial segregation in the western Mediterranean

Adam Gouraguine
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears - University of Glasgow, Division of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology , United Kingdom

Manuel Hidalgo
Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo , Norway

Joan Moranta
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears , Spain

David M. Bailey
University of Glasgow, Division of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology , United Kingdom

Francesc Ordines
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears , Spain

Beatriz Guijarro
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears , Spain

María Valls
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears , Spain

Carmen Barberá
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears , Spain

Aina De Mesa
Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears , Spain


Basic information on the distribution and habitat preferences of ecologically important species is essential for their management and protection. This study focuses on the depth related trends and the geographic patterns that shape the community of the elasmobranch species in the Balearic Islands (Mediterranean Sea) using data collected from 2001 to 2009. Non-metric Multi-Dimensional Scaling (MDS) ordination was used to detect zonation patterns in the community. Generalized Additive Models (GAMs) were applied to analyse spatial and temporal variation in elasmobranch community descriptors (abundance, biomass, mean fish weight, number of species and diversity), as well as the abundance and mean length of the four individual species (S. canicula, G. melastomus, R. clavata, R. miraletus). Depth was the main factor determining the assemblage composition, and the MDS analysis identified four main groups with 60% of the similarity found to correspond to the continental shelf, shelf break, upper slope and middle slope of the surveyed area. GAM analysis identified spatial patterns that were independent of the bathymetric distribution preference. Although depth was a strong predictor for all the analyses performed, the geographic variation in the elasmobranch abundance was also important. The results also show a reduction in the mean length of the elasmobranch species in the areas with high fishing intensity. Our study evidences a clear spatial segregation of the main species throughout the ontogeny because the geographic and bathymetric effects were highly size dependent, with clear differences between the bathymetric distributions of juveniles and adults but no clear spatial overlapping. This study sheds new light on the spatial distribution of the elasmobranch species off the Balearic Islands, which is essential information for protecting marine organisms along with their habitats and promoting ecosystem based management.


Elasmobranch; Balearic Islands; GAM; MDS; community descriptors; species distribution; bathymetric patterns; spatial segregation; fishing impact

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