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

Full Text:



Abelló, P., J.A. Bertrand, L. Gil de Sola, C. Papaconstantinou, G. Relini and A. Souplet. – 2002. Mediterranean marine demersal resources: the MEDITS international trawl survey (1994–1999). Sci. Mar., 66(Suppl. 2): 5-280.

Bascompte, J., C.J. Melián and E. Sala. – 2005. Interaction strength combinations and the overfishing of a marine food web. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA., 102(15): 5443-5447. PMid:15802468    PMCid:556268

Bertrand, J.A., L. Gil de Sola, C. Papaconstantinou, G. Relini and A. Souplet. – 2002. The general specifications of the MEDITS surveys. Sci. Mar., 66(2): 9-17.

Cailliet, G.M., J.A. Musick, C.A. Simpfendorfer and J.D. Stevens. – 2005. Ecology and life history characteristics of chondrichthyan fishes. In: Sharks, Rays and Chimaeras: The Status of the Chondrichthyan Fishes. Status Survey. In: S.L. Fowler, R.D. Cavanagh, M. Camhi, G.H. Burgess, G.M. Cailliet, S.V. Fordham, C.A. Simpferdorfer and J.A. Musick (eds.), Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN/SSC Shark Specialist Group. 12-18.

Canals, M. and E. Ballesteros. – 1997. Production of carbonate particles by phytobenthic communities on the Mallorca-Menorca shelf, northwestern Mediterranean Sea. Deep-Sea Res., 44: 611-629.

Capapé, C. and J.P. Quignard. – 1974. Contribution à la biologie des Rajidae des côtes tunisiennes. 1. Raja miraletus, Linné, 1758: répartition géographique et bathymétrique, sexualité, reproduction, fécondité. Arch. Inst. Pasteur Tunis, 51: 39-60

Carbonell, A., F. Alemany, P. Merella, A. Quetglas and E. Román.– 2003. The by-catch of sharks in the western Mediterranean (Balearic Islands) trawl fishery. Fish. Res., 61: 7-18.

Clarke, K.R. and R.N. Gorley. – 2001. PRIMER v5: User Manual/Tutorial. PRIMER-E, Plymouth.

Clifford, H. and W. Stephenson. – 1975. An introduction to numerical classification. Academic Press, New York.

Ciannelli, L., P. Fauchald, K.S. Chan, V.N. Agostini and G.E. Dingsor. – 2008. Spatial fisheries ecology: Recent progress and future prospects. J. Mar. Syst., 71: 223-236.

D’Onghia, G., A. Matarrese, A. Tursi and L. Sion. – 1995. Observations on the depth distribution pattern of the small-spotted catshark in the North Aegean Sea. J. Fish Biol., 47: 421-426.

Demestre, M., P. Sánchez and P. Abelló. – 2000. Demersal fish assemblages and habitat characteristics on the continental shelf and upper slope of the north-western Mediterranean. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. UK, 80: 981-988.

Demestre, M., P. Sánchez and M.J. Kaiser. – 2000b. The behavioural response of benthic scavengers to otter-trawling disturbance in the Mediterranean. In: M.J. Kaiser, S.J. De Groot (eds.), Effects of Fishing on Non-target Species and Habitats. Biological, Conservation and Socioeconomic Issues. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 121-129.

Ferretti, F., R.A. Myers, F. Serena and H.K. Lotze. – 2008. Loss of Large Predatory Sharks from the Mediterranean Sea. Conserv. Biol., 22: 952-964. PMid:18544092

Frank, K.T., B. Petrie, J.S. Choi and W.C. Leggett. – 2005. Trophic cascades in a formerly cod-dominated ecosystem. Science, 308: 1621-23. PMid:15947186

Gage, J.D. and P.A. Tyler. – 1991. Deep-Sea Biology: A Natural History of Organisms at the Deep-Sea Floor. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 504.

Gaertner, J.C., J.A. Bertrand, L. Sola, J. Durbec, E. Ferrandis, and A. Souplet. – 2005. Large spatial scale variation of demersal fish assemblage structure on the continental shelf of the NW Mediterranean Sea. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 297: 245-257.

Guijarro, B., E. Massutí, A. Quetglas, J. Moranta, F. Ordines, M. Valls and N. Gonzalez. – in press. An approach to the diagnosis of elasmobranch populations in the circa-littoral soft bottoms off the Balearic Islands (north-western Mediterranean). Sci. Mar.

Haedrich, R.L. – 1997. Distribution and population ecology. In: D.J. Randall and A.P. Farrell (eds.), Deep-sea fishes, pp. 79-114. Academic Press, San Diego.

Hastie, T. and R. Tibshirani. – 1990. Generalized Additive Models. Chapman and Hall, London.

Hsieh, C.H., A. Yamauchi, T. Nakazawa and W.F. Wang. – 2010. Fishing effects on age and spatial structures undermine population stability of fishes. Aquat. Sci., 72: 165-178.

Liu, H. and K.S. Chan. – 2010. Introducing COZIGAM: An R Package for Unconstrained and Constrained Zero-Inflated Generalized Additive Model Analysis. J. Stat. Softw. In press.

Liu, H., L. Ciannelli, M.B. Decker, C. Ladd and K.S. Chan. – 2010. Nonparametric threshold model of zero-inflated spatio-temporal data with application to shifts in jellyfish distribution. J. Agric. Biol. Environ. Stat. In press.

Massutí, E. and J. Moranta. – 2003. Demersal assemblages and depth distribution of elasmobranchs from the continental shelf and slope off the Balearic Islands (western Mediterranean). ICES J. Mar. Sci., 60: 753-766.

Massutí, E. and O. Reñones. – 2005. Demersal resource assemblages in the trawl fishing grounds off the Balearic Islands (western Mediterranean). Sci. Mar., 69: 167-181.

Maynou, F. and J.E. Cartes. – 2000. Community structure of bathyal decapod crustaceans off south-west Balearic Islands (western Mediterranean): seasonality and regional patterns in zonation. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. UK, 80: 789-798.

Moranta, J., C. Stefanescu, E. Massutí, B. Morales-Nin and D. Lloris. – 1998. Fish community structure and depth-related trends on the continental slope of the Balearic Islands (Algerian basin, western Mediterranean). Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 171: 247-259.

Moranta, J., E. Massutí, C. Stefanescu, M. Palmer and B. Morales-Nin. – 2008a. Short-term temporal variability in fish community structure at two western Mediterranean slope locations. Deep-Sea Res., 55: 866-880.

Moranta, J., A. Quetglas, E. Massutí, B. Guijarro, M. Hidalgo and P. Díaz. – 2008b. Spatio-temporal variations in deep-sea demersal communities off the Balearic Islands (western Mediterranean). J. Mar. Syst., 71: 346-366.

Olaso, I., F. Velasco and N. Perez. – 1998. Importance of discarded blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) in the diet of lesser spotted dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula) in the Cantabrian Sea. ICES J. Mar. Sci., 55: 331-341.

Ordines, F., A. Quetglas, E. Massutí and J. Moranta. – 2009. Habitat preferences and life history of the red scorpion fish, Scorpaena notata, in the Mediterranean. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci., 85: 537-546.

Ordines, F. and E. Massutí. – 2009. Relationships between macro-epibenthic communities and fish on the shelf grounds of the western Mediterranean. Aquat. Conserv., 19: 370-383.

Relini, G., J.A. Bertrand and A. Zamboni. – 1999. Synthesis of the knowledge on bottom fishery resources in Central Mediterranean (Italy and Corsica). Biol. Mar. Med., 6(Suppl. 1): 94-98.

Rodríguez-Cabello, C., F. Sánchez, A. Fernández and I. Olaso. – 2004. Is the lesser spotted dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula) from the Cantabrian Sea a unique stock? Fish. Res., 69: 57-71.

Sánchez, F. – 1993. Las comunidades de peces de la plataforma del Cantábrico. Pub. Espec. Inst. Esp. Oceanogr., 13.

Sánchez, F., M. Blanco and R. Gancedo. – 2002. Atlas de los peces demersales y de los invertebrados de interés comercial de Galicia y el Cantábrico. Otoño 1997-1999. Madrid: CYAN, Proyectos y Producciones Editoriales.

Stefanescu, C., D. Lloris and J. Rucabado. – 1992. Deep-living demersal fishes in the Catalan Sea (western Mediterranean) below a depth of 1000 m. J. Nat. Hist., 26: 197-213.

Stevens, J.D., R. Bonfil, N.K. Dulvy and P.A. Walker. – 2000. The effects of fishing on sharks, rays, and chimaeras (chondrichthyans), and the implications for marine ecosystems. ICES J. Mar. Sci., 57: 476-494.

Thrush, F. and P. Dayton. – 2010. What can ecology contribute to ecosystem-based management? Ann. Rev. Mar. Sci., 2: 419-441. PMid:21141671

Tursi, A., G. D’Onghia, A. Matarrese and G. Piscitelli. – 1993. Observations on population biology of the blackmouth catshark Galeus melastomus (Chondrichthyes, Scyliorhinidae) in the Ionian Sea. Cybium, 17: 187-196.

Valls, M., A. Quetglas, F. Ordines and J. Moranta. – 2011. Feeding ecology of demersal Elasmobranch in the Western Mediterranean. Sci. Mar., 75(4): 633-639.

Wood, S.N. – 2000. Modelling and smoothing parameter estimate with multiple quadratic penalties. J. R. Stat. Soc., B 62(2): 413-428.

Copyright (c) 2011 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Contact us

Technical support