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Trends Ecol Evol. 2016 May;31(5):395-407. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2016.02.014. Epub 2016 Mar 12.

The Ecological Role of Sharks on Coral Reefs.

Author information

1
Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia. Electronic address: g.roff@uq.edu.au.
2
Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.
3
Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia. Electronic address: p.j.mumby@uq.edu.au.

Abstract

Sharks are considered the apex predator of coral reefs, but the consequences of their global depletion are uncertain. Here we explore the ecological roles of sharks on coral reefs and, conversely, the importance of reefs for sharks. We find that most reef-associated shark species do not act as apex predators but instead function as mesopredators along with a diverse group of reef fish. While sharks perform important direct and indirect ecological roles, the evidence to support hypothesised shark-driven trophic cascades that benefit corals is weak and equivocal. Coral reefs provide some functional benefits to sharks, but sharks do not appear to favour healthier reef environments. Restoring populations of sharks is important and can yet deliver ecological surprise.

PMID:
26975420
DOI:
10.1016/j.tree.2016.02.014
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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