Conference Paper

Sigthings of large elasmobranchs from the Mediterranean: new data from MEDLEM database in the last five years (2017–2022)

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The rapid expansion of human activities threatens ocean-wide biodiversity. Numerous marine animal populations have declined, yet it remains unclear whether these trends are symptomatic of a chronic accumulation of global marine extinction risk. We present the first systematic analysis of threat for a globally distributed lineage of 1,041 chondrichthyan fishes-sharks, rays, and chimaeras. We estimate that one-quarter are threatened according to IUCN Red List criteria due to overfishing (targeted and incidental). Large-bodied, shallow-water species are at greatest risk and five out of the seven most threatened families are rays. Overall chondrichthyan extinction risk is substantially higher than for most other vertebrates, and only one-third of species are considered safe. Population depletion has occurred throughout the world's ice-free waters, but is particularly prevalent in the Indo-Pacific Biodiversity Triangle and Mediterranean Sea. Improved management of fisheries and trade is urgently needed to avoid extinctions and promote population recovery.
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Chondrichthyans are apex predators influencing the trophic web through a top-down process thus their depletion will affect the remaining biota. Notwithstanding that, research on chondrichthyans is sparse or data-limited in several biogeographic areas worldwide, including the Levantine Sea. We revise and update the knowledge of chondrichthyans in Cyprus based on a bibliographic review that gains information retrieved from peer-reviewed and grey literature, Global Biodiversity Information Facility (135 records of at least 18 species) and the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (65 records of at least14 species), and the citizen science project Mediterranean Elasmobranchs Citizen Observations (117 records per 23 species). Our updated checklist reports 60 species that account for about 70% of the Mediterranean chondrichthyan biota. The list includes 15 more species than the previous checklist and our study reports three new species for Cyprus waters, namely the blackmouth catshark Dalatias licha, the round fantail stingray Taeniurops grabatus, and the sawback angelshark Squatina aculeata. Our research highlights the need for conservation measures and more studies regarding the highly threatened blackchin guitarfish Glaucostegus cemiculus and the devil ray Mobula mobular, and stresses the importance for training a new generation of observers to strengthen the knowledge and conservation of elasmobranchs in the region.
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Chondrichthyan egg cases are important elements for species-specific identification and also provide a valuable aid in determining a species spatial distribution, as well as for defining spawning areas. Considering the absence of a general key for the identification of the egg cases of the Mediterranean Chondrichthyes, this work aims to fill this gap by presenting a species-specific key based on morphological features of the egg case. The key was developed primarily analysing fresh egg cases dissected from the oviduct, egg cases collected from the seabed or found dried lying on the seashore, after species confirmation by DNA analysis. Original data were integrated with information scrutinized from literature. In order to improve species identification, a protocol for the standardized acquisition of morpho-biometric and meristic features is also provided as a prerequisite for the appropriate use of the identification key. The total width and length included the horns, when they are not broken, are the parameters that best explain the assignment of the egg case to a specific species.
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In this contribution the checklist of chondrichthyans of Calabria (Central Mediterranean, southern Italy) is reported. Data presented is derived from twenty years of opportunistic and active surveys from 2000 to 2020. A total of 55 species of chondrich-thyans is present in Calabrian seas: 33 sharks, 20 rays, and 2 chimaeras. These species represent approximately 62% of the total reported for the Mediterranean. Approximately 71% of Calabrian species have been reported in the Tyrrhenian Sea, 49% in the Ionian Sea, and 33% in the Strait of Messina. According to IUCN criteria, new records of Endangered and Critically Endangered species (i.e., Carcahrodon carcharias [Linnaeus, 1758], Lamna nasus [Bonnaterre, 1788], Cetorhinus maximus [Gunnerus, 1765], Mobula mobular [Bonnaterre, 1788], Sphyrna zygaena [Linnaeus, 1758]) are reported, together with the first record of Raya brachyura Lafont, 1873 for the Ionian coasts and probably third confirmed record of the rare chimaera Hydrolagus mirabilis (Collett, 1904) for the Mediterranean.
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Chondrichthyans are one of the most threatened marine taxa worldwide. This is also the case in the Mediterranean Sea, which is considered an extinction hotspot for rays and sharks. The central position of the Italian peninsula makes it an ideal location for studying the status and changes of this sea. There is a lack of biological, ecological and historical data when assessing shark populations, which is also highlighted in the Red List of Threatened Species compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Historical data can provide important information to better understand how chondrichthyan populations have changed over time. This study aims to provide a clearer understanding of the changes in distribution and abundance of eight shark species in the Italian seas that are currently classified as at risk of extinction by the IUCN. In this respect, a bibliographic review was conducted on items from the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, focusing on the selected species. The results show that all sharks were considered common until the beginning of the 20th century but have declined since, with a clear negative trend, mainly in the past 70 years. The strong local decline has been attributed to overexploitation, bycatch, habitat loss, depletion of prey items and environmental pollution. Furthermore, historical data also allow us to avoid the issue of a ‘shifting baseline’, in which contemporary abundances are assumed to be “normal”. Using historical data to further our knowledge of the marine environment is becoming increasingly common, and is fundamental in understanding human impact and evaluating mitigation measures to manage and conserve marine species and environments.
Technical Report
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An analysis of threat levels across all sharks, rays and chimaeras has revealed the Mediterranean Sea as a key hotspot of extinction risk1. Seventy seven species are recorded from the Mediterranean Sea, however of these, four species are considered to be either vagrant or probably vagrant, or Lessepsian immigrants from the Red Sea; they are the Spinner Shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna), the Reticulate Whipray (Himantura uarnak), the Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) and the Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini). These four species have been excluded as Not Applicable for the Mediterranean region. Three species are endemic to the Mediterranean Sea and found nowhere else – Maltese Skate (Leucoraja melitensis; CR), Rough Skate (Raja radula; EN), and the Speckled Skate (Raja polystigma; LC). More than half of the species assessed, 39 of 73 species, are regionally threatened; 31 are most imperilled in the Critically Endangered (20 species) and Endangered (11) categories (Figure 1). On a global scale, of the 20 species of sharks, rays and chimaeras that have been assessed as Critically Endangered, seven have some part of their distribution in the Mediterranean Sea. Of the other 13 regionally CR species, the Mediterranean Sea part of their population is more threatened than the remainder of their global range.
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The authors describe in this paper one male and one female longfin makos Isurus paucus Guitart Manday, 1966 caught off Béni-Saf, city located on the Algerian coast, close to the Moroccan border. These captures confirm the occurrence of the species in the Algerian waters and in the Mediterranean.
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During the 2000-2009, a survey study on the spatiotemporal patterns of distribution of large predatory sharks was carried out in the Calabria region. A total of 12 species were recorded and among them the blue shark Prionace glauca and the bluntnose sixgill shark Hexanchus griseus were the most common ones. Also of interest was the frequency of species such as Carcharodon carcharias, Sphyrna zygaena and Cetorhinus maximus. 57% of all reported records derived from the Tyrrhenian side of the region and 43% on the Ionian side. A significant relationship between season of the year versus number of records was found, but this could be related to the small number of observers that were active during the winter months. The presence of Sphyrna lewini is reported for the study area; this species was previously recorded only in the western part of the Mediterranean Sea. This paper also provides evidence of the second and first documented accounts of white shark predation upon Tursiops truncatus and Stenella coeruleoalba, respectively, in the Mediterranean Sea. The recovering of Ionian Sphyrna zygaena populations and the declining of Lamna nasus populations were also noted.
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Captures of 11 spinetail devil rays, Mobula japanica (Müller et Henle, 1841), from the northern coast of Tunisian (central Mediterranean) are reported in the present paper. Of these 11 specimens, five specimens were described. These captures constitute the first records of the species in the Tunisian waters, but also in the Mediterranean Sea, extending its distribution. This unusual occurrence of M. japanica is probably due to a migration from the eastern tropical Atlantic into the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar.
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This collaborative effort by many specialists across the Mediterranean presents an updated annotated list of alien marine species in the Mediterranean Sea. Alien species have been grouped into six broad categories namely established, casual, questionable, cryptogenic, excluded and invasive, and presented in lists of major ecofunctional/taxonomic groups. The establishment success within each group is provided while the questionable and excluded records are commented in brief. A total of 963 alien species have been reported from the Mediterranean until December 2005, 218 of which have been classified as excluded (23%) leaving 745 of the recorded species as valid aliens. Of these 385 (52%) are already well established, 262 (35%) are casual records, while 98 species (13%) remain “questionable” records. The species cited in this work belong mostly to zoobenthos and in particular to Mollusca and Crustacea, while Fish and Phytobenthos are the next two groups which prevail among alien biota in the Mediterranean. The available information depends greatly on the taxonomic group examined. Thus, besides the three groups explicitly addressed in the CIESM atlas series (Fish, Decapoda/Crustacea and Mollusca), which are however updated in the present work, Polychaeta, Phytobenthos, Phytoplankton and Zooplankton are also addressed in this study. Among other zoobenthic taxa sufficiently covered in this study are Echinodermata, Sipuncula, Bryozoa and Ascidiacea. On the contrary, taxa such as Foraminifera, Amphipoda and Isopoda, that are not well studied in the Mediterranean, are insufficiently covered. A gap of knowledge is also noticed in Parasites, which, although ubiquitous and pervasive in marine systems, have been relatively unexplored as to their role in marine invasions. Conclusively the lack of funding purely systematic studies in the region has led to underestimation of the number of aliens in the Mediterranean. Emphasis is put on those species that are current or potential threats to the marine ecosystems, namely the Worst Invasive Alien Species providing their record across major groups.
1. Sharks are globally exposed to several anthropogenic threats, which, in many cases, have severely reduced their distribution and have impacted populations. In the Mediterranean Sea, because of its long history of exploitation and the relatively short span of scientific monitoring, reconstructing shark baselines is challenging. Many vulnerable species declined in population abundance and geographic distribution before it was possible to adequately track these changes. Consequently, for many of these species, current conservation assessments are now suffering from a severe case of shifting baseline syndrome, whereby their historical occurrence in the area is questioned. 2. The sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) is one of these cases. Characterized by high philopatry, restricted home range, and low interchange between populations, its Mediterranean population may have been severely impacted by the high historical fishing pressure in the region before scientific monitoring began. 3. In this study, the history of the abundance and distribution of C. taurus in the Mediterranean Sea was reconstructed through a comprehensive search of occurrence records in the literature and in museum collections. Between 1810 and 2008, 31 occurrence records and 54 publications provided information on the presence of the species in the area. These records were sparse but systematic over time and indicated occurrence hot spots in the southwestern Mediterranean Sea and in the eastern Adriatic Sea. 4. The presence of ten sightings of juveniles from a total of 18 sightings with length information suggested local parturition. Habitat and extinction models indicate that the area has suitable oceanographic conditions for the occurrence of the species and that the species cannot be considered extinct in the Mediterranean Sea. Our study suggests that there is still hope for the recovery of the species and underlines the crucial role of historical investigations to reconstruct the history of large elasmobranchs in the Mediterranean Sea.
An updated checklist of chondrichthyans of Calabria (Central Mediterranean, southern Italy), with emphasis on rare species
  • F L Leonetti
  • G Giglio
  • A Leone
  • F Coppola
  • C Romano
  • M Bottaro
  • C Mancusi
  • R Baino
  • C Fortuna
  • L G De Sola
  • G Morey
  • M N Bradai
  • A Kallianotis
  • A Soldo
  • F Hemida
  • A A Saad
  • M Dimech
  • P Peristeraki
  • M Bariche
  • S Clò
  • E De Sabata
  • L Castellano
  • F Garibaldi
  • L Lanteri
  • F Tinti
  • A Pais
  • E Sperone
  • P Micarelli
  • F Poisson
  • L Sion
  • R Carlucci
  • D Cebrian-Menchero
  • B Séret
  • F Ferretti
  • A El-Far
  • I Saygu
  • E A Shakman
  • A Bartoli
  • J Guallart
  • D Damalas
  • P Megalofonou
  • M Vacchi
  • M Bottaro
  • G Notarbartolo Di Sciara
  • M C Follesa
  • R Cannas
  • H Kabasakal
  • B Zava
  • G Cavlan
  • A Jung
  • M Abudaya
  • J Kolitari
  • A Barash
  • A Joksimovic
  • B Marčeta
  • L Gonzalez Vilas
  • F Tiralongo
  • I Giovos
  • F Bargnesi
  • S Lelli
  • M Barone
  • S Moro
  • C Mazzoldi
  • C Charis
  • A J Abella
  • F Serena
C. Mancusi, Baino, R., Fortuna, C., De Sola, L. G., Morey, G., Bradai, M. N., Kallianotis, A., Soldo, A., Hemida, F., Saad, A. A., Dimech, M., Peristeraki, P., Bariche, M., Clò, S., De Sabata, E., Castellano, L., Garibaldi, F., Lanteri, L., Tinti, F., Pais, A., Sperone, E., Micarelli, P., Poisson, F., Sion, L., Carlucci, R., Cebrian-Menchero, D., Séret, B., Ferretti, F., El-Far, A., Saygu, I., Shakman, E. A., Bartoli, A., Guallart, J., Damalas, D., Megalofonou, P., Vacchi, M., Bottaro, M., Notarbartolo Di Sciara, G., Follesa, M. C., Cannas, R., Kabasakal, H., Zava, B., Cavlan, G., Jung, A., Abudaya, M., Kolitari, J., Barash, A., Joksimovic, A., Marčeta, B., Gonzalez Vilas, L., Tiralongo, F., Giovos, I., Bargnesi, F., Lelli, S., Barone, M., Moro, S., Mazzoldi, C., Charis, C., Abella, A. J., and F. Serena, "MEDLEM database, a data collection on large Elasmobranchs in the Mediterranean and Black seas", Med. Mar. Sci., vol. 21(2), pp. 276-288, 2020.