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Journal Article

Citation

Drew J, Philipp C, Westneat MW. PLoS One 2013; 8(4): e59855.

Affiliation

Division of Fishes and Biodiversity Synthesis Center, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America ; Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States of America.

Copyright

(Copyright © 2013, Public Library of Science)

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0059855

PMID

23573214

Abstract

The reefs surrounding the Gilbert Islands (Republic of Kiribati, Central Pacific), like many throughout the world, have undergone a period of rapid and intensive environmental perturbation over the past 100 years. A byproduct of this perturbation has been a reduction of the number of shark species present in their waters, even though sharks play an important in the economy and culture of the Gilbertese. Here we examine how shark communities changed over time periods that predate the written record in order to understand the magnitude of ecosystem changes in the Central Pacific. Using a novel data source, the shark tooth weapons of the Gilbertese Islanders housed in natural history museums, we show that two species of shark, the Spot-tail (Carcharhinus sorrah) and the Dusky (C. obscurus), were present in the islands during the last half of the 19(th) century but not reported in any historical literature or contemporary ichthyological surveys of the region. Given the importance of these species to the ecology of the Gilbert Island reefs and to the culture of the Gilbertese people, documenting these shifts in baseline fauna represents an important step toward restoring the vivid splendor of both ecological and cultural diversity.


Language: en

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