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The selective drivers of allometry in sharks

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Gayford, Joel H 
Whitehead, Darren A 
Ketchum, James T 
Field, Daniel J 


In addition to the selective importance of interspecific morphological variation, ontogenetic morphological variation may reflect different selective regimes to which successive developmental stages are subjected. The typical body form of carcharhiniform sharks is considered relatively conserved, yet sharks exhibit a wide range of body sizes and shapes, representing adaptations to distinct ecological niches. Previous investigations of ontogenetic shifts in shark body form have provided evidence for both isometric and allometric changes depending on the morphological characters and species investigated. These findings have led to suggestions of a relationship between body size and allometric growth in sharks. In this study we present evidence of ontogenetic allometric shifts in two species of carcharhiniform sharks (Sphyrna lewini and Rhizoprionodon longurio) from novel measurements. Our results are generally consistent with previous suggestions of body form conservatism across shark phylogeny, yet also suggest potential selective factors underlying observed instances of ontogenetic allometric shifts, and highlight where additional studies are required. We propose the ‘Allometric Niche Shift’ hypothesis for interspecific differences in scaling trends, suggesting that long-distance movements and ontogenetic trophic niche shifts represent key drivers of allometry in sharks.



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Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society

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MRC (MR/S032177)
This work was funded by Ocean Blue Tree and Paul Angell Foundation through Pelagios Kakunjá, and by UKRI grant MR/S032177/1