Trophic ecology of three stingrays (Myliobatoidei: Dasyatidae) off the Brazilian north-eastern coast: Habitat use and resource partitioning

Aristóteles Philippe Nunes Queiroz, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Maria Lúcia Góes Araújo, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco
Nigel E. Hussey, University of Windsor
Rosângela P.T. Lessa, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco


Understanding the ecological role of species with overlapping distributions is central to inform ecosystem management. Here we describe the diet, trophic level and habitat use of three sympatric stingrays, Hypanus guttatus, H. marianae and H. berthalutzae, through combined stomach content and stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) analyses. Our integrated approach revealed that H. guttatus is a mesopredator that feeds on a diverse diet of benthic and epibenthic marine and estuarine organisms, principally bivalve molluscs, Alpheus shrimp and teleost fishes. Isotopic data supported movement of this species between marine and estuarine environments. H. berthalutzae is also a marine generalist feeder, but feeds primarily on teleost fishes and cephalopods, and consequently occupies a higher trophic level. In contrast, H. marianae is a mesopredator specialized on shrimps and polychaetas occurring only in the marine environment and occupying a low niche breadth. While niche overlap occurred, the three stingrays utilized the same prey resources at different rates and occupied distinct trophic niches, potentially limiting competition for resources and promoting coexistence. These combined data demonstrate that these three mesopredators perform different ecological roles in the ecosystems they occupy, limiting functional redundancy.