Stable isotope analysis as a tool for elasmobranch conservation research: A primer for non-specialists

D. S. Shiffman, A. J. Gallagher, M. D. Boyle, C. M. Hammerschlag-Peyer, N. Hammerschlag

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Many elasmobranch species are undergoing population declines on a global scale; however, implementation of effective conservation and management strategies is hindered, to a large extent, by a lack of sufficient data on diet, life history and behaviour. This work is a primer of how stable isotope analysis can be used as a cost-effective, relatively simple tool for examining resource use patterns (e.g. diet, habitat) and generating relevant data in support of science-based elasmobranch conservation and management. Specifically, isotopes can resolve the feeding niches of elasmobranchs, detect ontogenetic trophic shifts and calculate relative diet breadth of different species. Stable isotope analysis can also be employed to investigate the extent of anthropogenic impacts on diet or to infer the source of toxins affecting elasmobranchs. Additionally, this tool can be used to study migration patterns and habitat usage. Depending on the tissue analysed, this technique can also be non-lethal and minimally invasive. The limitations of stable isotope analysis are discussed, and recommendations for future work are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-643
Number of pages9
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2012


  • dietary analysis
  • ecotoxicology
  • food web analysis
  • individual diet specialisation
  • migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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