The field of marine urban ecology is a nascent, but growing area of research. An understanding of how urbanization may alter the diets and nutrition of marine species living in urbanized coastal habitats is limited. In the present study, we investigated the influence of urbanization on dietary patterns and nutritional quality of the nurse shark Ginglymostoma cirratum, a coastal epibenthic mesopredator. We tested the hypothesis that sharks sampled in urbanized areas (hereafter, ‘urban sharks’) would exhibit lower nutritional quality than individuals sampled in adjacent, but more pristine areas (hereafter ‘non-urban sharks’). To accomplish this, we compared plasma fatty acid profiles of juvenile nurse sharks in proximity to Miami, a large coastal city, within Biscayne Bay, Florida. Results revealed that urban sharks contained higher levels of plasma saturated and bacterial fatty acids compared to non-urban sharks. Urban sharks also exhibited lower proportions of essential fatty acids (i.e., highly unsaturated fatty acids, HUFAs), mainly due to low contributions of omega-6 HUFAs. These results suggest that urban sharks consumed lower-quality food resources than conspecifics in less impacted areas. The apparent poor nutritional quality of prey consumed by shark living in urban areas may have several long-term consequences on their health and growth.
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