The importance of habitat and life history to extinction risk in sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras.

Research paper by Verónica B VB García, Luis O LO Lucifora, Ransom A RA Myers

Indexed on: 25 Oct '07Published on: 25 Oct '07Published in: Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society


We compared life-history traits and extinction risk of chondrichthyans (sharks, rays and chimaeras), a group of high conservation concern, from the three major marine habitats (continental shelves, open ocean and deep sea), controlling for phylogenetic correlation. Deep-water chondrichthyans had a higher age at maturity and longevity, and a lower growth completion rate than shallow-water species. The average fishing mortality needed to drive a deep-water chondrichthyan species to extinction (Fextinct) was 38-58% of that estimated for oceanic and continental shelf species, respectively. Mean values of Fextinct were 0.149, 0.250 and 0.368 for deep-water, oceanic and continental shelf species, respectively. Reproductive mode was an important determinant of extinction risk, while body size had a weak effect on extinction risk. As extinction risk was highly correlated with phylogeny, the loss of species will be accompanied by a loss of phylogenetic diversity. Conservation priority should not be restricted to large species, as is usually suggested, since many small species, like those inhabiting the deep ocean, are also highly vulnerable to extinction. Fishing mortality of deep-water chondrichthyans already exploited should be minimized, and new deep-water fisheries affecting chondrichthyans should be prevented.