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Supplementary material from "Seasonally mediated niche partitioning in a vertically compressed pelagic predator guild"

Posted on 2023-11-17 - 13:05
Niche partitioning among closely related, sympatric species is a fundamental concept in ecology, and its mechanisms are of broad interest for understanding ecosystem function to predicting the impacts of human-driven environmental change. However, identifying mechanisms by which top marine predators partition available resources has been especially challenging given the difficulty of quantifying resource use of large pelagic animals. In the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), three large, highly mobile and ecologically similar pelagic predators (blue marlin Makaira nigricans, black marlin Istiompax indica and sailfish Istiophorus platypterus), coexist in a vertically compressed habitat. To evaluate each species' ecological niche, we leveraged a decade of recreational fisheries data, multi-year satellite tracking with high-resolution dive data, and stable isotope analysis. Fishery interaction and telemetry-based three-dimensional seasonal utilization distributions suggested high spatial and temporal overlap among species; however, seasonal and diel variability in diving behaviour produced spatial partitioning, leading to low trophic overlap among species. Expanding oxygen minimum zones will reduce the available vertical habitat within predator guilds, likely leading to increases in interspecific competition. Thus, understanding the mechanisms of habitat partitioning among predators in the vertically compressed ETP can provide insight into how predators in other ocean regions may respond to vertically limited habitats.

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