Standardized diet compositions and trophic levels of skates (Chondrichthyes: Rajiformes: Rajoidei)
Elasmobranchs are apical predators in most marine communities where they occur, often playing a substantial role in the food web dynamics of those communities. However, despite their high trophic status they are often poorly studied compared to most commercially important teleosts. Furthermore, despite efforts towards ecosystem-based management, elasmobranchs are still often lumped into generic categories referred to as “shark” or “skate” unclassified, with limited effort to identify individual species. The role of elasmobranchs in ecosystems has never been more important to our understanding of marine ecology due to high levels of exploitation of many species. Similar to other high trophic level predators, many elasmobranchs have life-history characteristics that make them vulnerable to over-exploitation. Elasmobranch populations are now heavily targeted in many fisheries throughout the world. Increasing exploitation of this group is especially alarming because their feeding ecology is poorly studied and by extension their influence in shaping ecosystems. Given recent increased attention on elasmobranchs in the scientific literature, management and conservation circles, and the general news media, researchers over the past decade have begun to more closely examine the ecological role of this important taxon of fishes. Due to this increasing awareness, and the development of new and innovative methods and analytical techniques, it prompted us to organize an international symposium on the “Feeding Ecology of Elasmobranchs”. The symposium was held on 10 July 2010, in conjunction with the 27th annual meeting of the American Elasmobranch Society meetings in Providence, Rhode Island.