The role of Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) in an Arctic ecosystem: Assessed via stable isotopes and fatty acids
The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is the only shark species known to inhabit ice-covered seas in the North Atlantic, but remains a missing component in most studies of Arctic food webs. In the present study, stable isotopes (SIs) of nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) and fatty acids (FAs) were analyzed to identify the role of Greenland sharks (sampled during June 2008-2009) in Kongsfjorden, a productive fjord on the west coast of Svalbard, Norway (~79oN, 12-13oE). The Greenland shark fed at a high trophic position (4. 8) based on δ15N values, and δ13C confirmed that most (70 %) of their carbon was derived from phytoplankton-based food chains, which is consistent with a heavy reliance on pelagic teleosts and seals. Greenland sharks from Kongsfjorden had fatty acid profiles in both muscle and plasma (e. g., low 20:1n-9, high 22:5n-3) that suggested a low portion of Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) and high proportion of gadoids and seals in their diet compared to Greenland sharks sampled in Cumberland Sound, Canada, during April 2008, which were previously shown to derive much of their energy from Greenland halibut. The high proportions of seal fatty acids in both slow- (muscle) and fast- (plasma) turnover tissues indicate that trophic interactions between Greenland sharks and seals in Kongsfjorden are a common occurrence. Results from the present study suggest that Greenland sharks likely play a unique and significant role in Arctic marine food webs as a top predator of fishes and marine mammals. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
McMeans, Bailey C.; Arts, Michael T.; Lydersen, Christian; Kovacs, Kit M.; Hop, Haakon; Falk-Petersen, Stig; and Fisk, Aaron T.. (2013). The role of Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) in an Arctic ecosystem: Assessed via stable isotopes and fatty acids. Marine Biology, 160 (5), 1223-1238.