Author Interview: Feeding ecology and reproductive biology of small coastal sharks in Malaysian waters

by | Aug 22, 2023 | Article Spotlight, Author Interview

PeerJ spoke to Kean Chong Lim at the University of Malaya about the recently published PeerJ Life & Environment article Feeding ecology and reproductive biology of small coastal sharks in Malaysian waters. The article was published as part of the IABO Hub. The IABO Hub is the publishing home of the International Association for Biological Oceanography, and features the latest biological oceanography research published by the members of IABO.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a PhD student at Universiti Malaya, Malaysia and am currently awaiting examination of my thesis on ‘Biology and population genetics of selected coastal elasmobranchs in Malaysian waters’. My two lovely PhD supervisors are Dr Amy Then and Dr Kar-Hoe Loh. I had been involved in research of sharks and rays for over 10 years now since my undergraduate years at University Malaysia Sabah. My research interests on the subject of sharks and rays are wide ranging, covering species diversity, biology and ecology, taxonomy and phylogeny, as well as their population status, with the aim to inform effective fisheries management and conservation.

Can you briefly explain the research you published in PeerJ?

Our study focused on the feeding ecology and reproductive biology of four dominant co-occurring small coastal demersal shark species in Malaysian waters. These sharks had been experiencing high fishing pressure for decades, forming the dominant shark species landed in Malaysia, but had received very limited research attention to date. Under such long-term heavy exploitation, we are concerned on their population sustainability in our waters. It would be important to understand the underlying feeding and reproductive strategies adopted by these species that are important for them to survive high fishing pressure in the region.

What did you discover and where?

By using stomach content analyses, we were able to confirm that these shark species consumed very similar prey types but showed clear resource partitioning based on the index of relative prey importance. Partitioning also occurred across ontogeny as seen through changes in prey size consumed. This ecological finding of resource partitioning is important as the sharks are able to minimize direct competition for shared food, thus supporting coexistence of these sharks within shared coastal habitats. In addition, these small sized sharks showed reproductive strategies of smaller size at maturity for females and no obvious reproductive cycles – these are likely important to support short-term population productivity. Nonetheless, we think that reduction in fishing pressure, especially from bottom trawlers, is essential for the long-term sustainable use of these sharks.

How did you first hear about PeerJ, and what persuaded you to submit to us?

I first heard about PeerJ years ago from other labmates who had successfully published there. My supervisor, Dr Amy Then, received an email invitation from PeerJ regarding full APC waiver for research articles in the field of Conservation Biology. Given the suitability in scope of our paper, we made the decision to submit to PeerJ, and the process had been relatively smooth.

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