Elemental Markers in Elasmobranchs: Effects of Environmental History and Growth on Vertebral Chemistry Public Deposited

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This is the publisher’s final pdf. © 2013 Smith et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. The published article can be found at:  http://www.plosone.org/home.action.

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  • Differences in the chemical composition of calcified skeletal structures (e.g. shells, otoliths) have proven useful for reconstructing the environmental history of many marine species. However, the extent to which ambient environmental conditions can be inferred from the elemental signatures within the vertebrae of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, rays) has not been evaluated. To assess the relationship between water and vertebral elemental composition, we conducted two laboratory studies using round stingrays, Urobatis halleri, as a model species. First, we examined the effects of temperature (16°, 18°, 24°C) on vertebral elemental incorporation (Li/Ca, Mg/Ca, Mn/Ca, Zn/Ca, Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca). Second, we tested the relationship between water and subsequent vertebral elemental composition by manipulating dissolved barium concentrations (1x, 3x, 6x). We also evaluated the influence of natural variation in growth rate on elemental incorporation for both experiments. Finally, we examined the accuracy of classifying individuals to known environmental histories (temperature and barium treatments) using vertebral elemental composition. Temperature had strong, negative effects on the uptake of magnesium (D[subscript Mg]) and barium (D[subscript Ba]) and positively influenced manganese (D[subscript Mn]) incorporation. Temperature-dependent responses were not observed for lithium and strontium. Vertebral Ba/Ca was positively correlated with ambient Ba/Ca. Partition coefficients (D[subscript Ba]) revealed increased discrimination of barium in response to increased dissolved barium concentrations. There were no significant relationships between elemental incorporation and somatic growth or vertebral precipitation rates for any elements except Zn. Relationships between somatic growth rate and D[subscript Zn] were, however, inconsistent and inconclusive. Variation in the vertebral elemental signatures of U. halleri reliably distinguished individual rays from each treatment based on temperature (85%) and Ba exposure (96%) history. These results support the assumption that vertebral elemental composition reflects the environmental conditions during deposition and validates the use of vertebral elemental signatures as natural markers in an elasmobranch. Vertebral elemental analysis is a promising tool for the study of elasmobranch population structure, movement, and habitat use.
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  • Smith WD, Miller JA, Heppell SS (2013) Elemental Markers in Elasmobranchs: Effects of Environmental History and Growth on Vertebral Chemistry. PLoS ONE 8(10): e62423. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062423
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