The response of gastric pH and motility to fasting and feeding in free swimming blacktip reef sharks, Carcharhinus melanopterus

Yannis P. Papastamatiou, Samuel J. Purkis, Kim N. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

In many fish and reptiles, gastric digestion is responsible for the complete breakdown of prey items into semi-liquid chyme. The responses of the stomach to feeding and to periods of fasting are, however, unknown for many lower vertebrates. We inserted data loggers into the stomachs of free-swimming captive adult blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) to quantify gastric pH, motility and temperature during fasting and following ingestion of food. Gastric acid secretion was continuous, even during long periods of fasting, with a mean pH of 1.66 ± 0.40 (± 1 SD) when the stomach was empty. Stomach contractions were greater following meals of mackerel than for those of squid. Gastric motility following feeding on mackerel, was positively influenced by ambient temperature, and followed a quadratic relationship with meal size, with maximum motility occurring after meals of 0.8-1.0% body weight. Diel changes in gastric motility were apparent, and were most likely caused by diel changes in ambient temperature. Gastric digestion in blacktip reef sharks is affected by both biotic and abiotic variables. We hypothesize that behavioral strategies adopted by sharks in the field may be an attempt to optimize digestion by selecting for appropriate environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-140
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Volume345
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 13 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Data-loggers
  • Foraging ecology
  • Gastric digestion
  • Motility
  • Optimal foraging
  • Sharks
  • pH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science

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