The trophic role of a large marine predator, the tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 9;7(1):7641. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-07751-2.


Tiger sharks were sampled off the western (Ningaloo Reef, Shark Bay) and eastern (the Great Barrier Reef; GBR, Queensland and New South Wales; NSW) coastlines of Australia. Multiple tissues were collected from each shark to investigate the effects of location, size and sex of sharks on δ13C and δ15N stable isotopes among these locations. Isotopic composition of sharks sampled in reef and seagrass habitats (Shark Bay, GBR) reflected seagrass-based food-webs, whereas at Ningaloo Reef analysis revealed a dietary transition between pelagic and seagrass food-webs. In temperate habitats off southern Queensland and NSW coasts, shark diets relied on pelagic food-webs. Tiger sharks occupied roles at the top of food-webs at Shark Bay and on the GBR, but not at Ningaloo Reef or off the coast of NSW. Composition of δ13C in tissues was influenced by body size and sex of sharks, in addition to residency and diet stability. This variability in stable isotopic composition of tissues is likely to be a result of adaptive foraging strategies that allow these sharks to exploit multiple shelf and offshore habitats. The trophic role of tiger sharks is therefore both context- and habitat-dependent, consistent with a generalist, opportunistic diet at the population level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Structures / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / physiology*
  • Australia
  • Biometry
  • Carbon Isotopes / analysis
  • Ecosystem
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Chain*
  • Male
  • Nitrogen Isotopes / analysis
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Sharks / anatomy & histology
  • Sharks / physiology*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Nitrogen Isotopes