AbstractIdentifying the ecological traits of threatened species may help to identify species vulnerable to exploitation and habitat loss, predict future declines in abundance and provide the basis for their conservation. We assessed the relationship of dietary and habitat niche breadth on conservation status of skate species (Chondrichthyes, Rajiformes). We hypothesized that skate species with a narrow niche breadth have a higher conservation concern than skate species with wide niche breadth. Conservation status (IUCN), dietary and depth range data on 57 skate species were collected. Generalized linear mixed effect models were fitted with taxonomic level (genera nested within family) included as a random effect term in each model. In each model, body size of skate species was included as a variable because this life history trait is a known predictor of vulnerability. A model selection approach to test the level of support for alternative models was applied. Our results support the hypothesis that a narrow niche breadth is related to high vulnerability. Skate species with high probability of being of conservation concern have a narrow trophic niche breadth and a large body size. We conclude that dietary niche breadth together with body size may be an important trait to identify potentially vulnerable skate species. Conservation biology faces the challenge of identifying what species are vulnerable to anthropogenic stressors and to determine why this is so. The predictive value of our results may allow to know a priori which species should receive prioritary attention.

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