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Article

Integrating Literature, Biodiversity Databases, and Citizen-Science to Reconstruct the Checklist of Chondrichthyans in Cyprus (Eastern Mediterranean Sea)

1
Marine and Environmental Research (MER) Lab, Limassol 4533, Cyprus
2
iSea, Environmental Organisation for the Preservation of the Aquatic Ecosystems, 54645 Thessaloniki, Greece
3
Department of Animal Production, Fisheries & Aquaculture, University of Patras, 30200 Mesolongi, Greece
4
Department of Biology, University of Padova, Via U. Bassi 58/B, I-35131 Padova, Italy
5
Institute for Marine Biological Resources and Biotechnology, National Research Council (CNR-IRBIM), I-91026 Mazara del Vallo, Italy
6
School of Spatial Planning and Development, Faculty of Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece
7
School of Marine Sciences, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa 3498838, Israel
8
Sharks in Israel, NGO for the Conservation of Sharks and Rays, Amirim 1214000, Israel
9
Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Fisheries Resources Division, Nicosia 2033, Cyprus
10
School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
11
Shimoda Marine Research Center, University of Tsukuba, Shizuoka 415-0025, Japan
12
Department of Integrative Marine Ecology, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale, I-80121 Napoli, Italy
13
Department of Maritime Transport and Commerce, Frederick University, Limassol 3080, Cyprus
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Stephen J. Newman
Fishes 2021, 6(3), 24; https://doi.org/10.3390/fishes6030024
Received: 1 July 2021 / Revised: 19 July 2021 / Accepted: 20 July 2021 / Published: 26 July 2021

Abstract

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.
Keywords: cartilaginous fishes; threatened taxa; Levantine Sea; red list (IUCN); MECO project cartilaginous fishes; threatened taxa; Levantine Sea; red list (IUCN); MECO project

1. Introduction

Chondrichthyans (sharks, skates, rays, sawfish, and chimeras) play a pivotal role in the marine environment, providing stability to coastal and oceanic ecosystem structures and functions [1,2]. Nevertheless, they are heavily overfished worldwide [3,4], with targeted fisheries and bycatch constituting the most significant threats to the conservation of demersal and pelagic species [4,5]. This also holds true for the Mediterranean Sea, which used to be considered over the centuries as a chondrichthyan hotspot; at least 50% of its shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction, extirpation, and steep population declines [6,7,8]. Limited economic resources, political instability, difficulties in species identification, and low population densities also hamper the conservation of Mediterranean aquatic resources and, in general, of chondrichthyan species [7,9]. Illegal landings, mainly by North African fishing fleets, and slow progress in the implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management—provisioned by the European Union (EU) Common Fisheries Policy and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) declarations—are also jeopardizing population recoveries of these taxa in the Mediterranean Sea [8]. Finally, declines are generally happening before we gain reasonable knowledge of several cartilaginous taxa, with 13 species of those living in the Mediterranean Sea still listed as “data deficient” according to the Red List evaluation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) [10].
Open-access databases and citizen science are rapidly, and cost-effectively improving the extent and reach of shared information on marine biodiversity, often filling long-lasting knowledge gaps [11,12]. Data sharing tools such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF, https://www.gbif.org/; accessed on 1 May 2020) and the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS, https://obis.org/; accessed on 1 May 2020) facilitate access to species records. Advances in social media and mobile-phone applications have strengthened citizen science [13], providing extensive information about occurrence data in several phylogenetic groups, including chondrichthyans [9,14,15,16,17,18,19]. The use of internet and crowdsourcing platforms for ecology (also known as “iEcology”) moves beyond traditional research studies and generates data about ecological patterns and processes (e.g., species occurrences, distributional range shifts) from digitally stored sources that would otherwise be unavailable [20,21]. They provide access to an unprecedented source of information that scientists have only recently started to explore [15,22]. These “new-generation” tools are highly useful in supporting correct species identifications and creating more effective and data-driven conservation strategies.
We combined (i) an extensive literature review with information gained from (ii) the online GBIF and OBIS databases and (iii) a focused citizen science project (MECO, Mediterranean Elasmobranchs Citizen Observations) in order to update the knowledge about chondrichthyans living in Cypriot waters. Our aims were to revise the previous chondrichthyan checklist for Cyprus and subsequently better understand whether (i) citizen science can provide crucial data about the biology and ecology of threatened species; (ii) knowledge and conservation of elasmobranchs in the region can be pursued through various approaches.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. Study Area

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and is located in the Levantine Basin (eastern Mediterranean). Despite its small size (9.251 km2), the marine waters of the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone represent a significant water body of the eastern Mediterranean, equal to 98.240 km2 (Figure 1). These waters are characterised by low nutrient availability (ultra-oligotrophic waters) and low primary production [23], complex water circulation with seasonal variations, sea temperature ranging from about 16 to 28 °C throughout the year, and salinity reaching up to about 39 PSU [14]. The southern part experiences cooler waters due to upwelling caused by north-westerly winds [24,25]. The coastline is predominantly composed of sand-gravel in the south to south-eastern part, whereas the south-western and the eastern coastline is dominated by rocky substrata [26]. The local marine ecosystems and species assemblages are undergoing rapid changes due to multiple pressures acting synergistically, including invasive species, climate change, habitat loss, pollution, and overexploitation [27].

2.2. Literature Review

We conducted a systematic literature review (up to July 2020), applying the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses approach [28]. We collected chondrichthyan records from peer-reviewed publications archived in Google Scholar using the keyword “Cyprus” plus the search terms “chondrichthyan(s)”, “elasmobranch(s)”, “shark(s)”, “batoid(s)”, “ray(s)” and “skate(s)” to identify items with relevant titles, keywords, or abstracts. We selected “anytime” for the publication date. After duplicates were removed, 158 publications remained to be screened.
We furthermore searched for chondrichthyan records in government reports and policy documents. In particular, these included:
  • CYP EU Data Collection Framework (DCF) reports, published between 2005–2019 and available at the following webpage: https://datacollection.jrc.ec.europa.eu/ars; accessed on 1 May 2021, including the scientific survey data of the International Bottom Trawl Survey in the Mediterranean (MEDITS);
  • data published in two Department of Fisheries and Marine Research of Cyprus (DFMR) reports, which list 30 [29] and 45 chondrichthyan species [30], respectively.
Data retrieved from all the above-mentioned sources included (when available) the fish species, the year of sighting, the location, the depth, and the year of publication.

2.3. Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS)

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is the largest open-access primary biodiversity database and contains over 1.5 billion species occurrence records [12,31]. The Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), a global open-access database on marine biodiversity for science, conservation, and sustainable development, is focused on marine species and contains more than 6.5 million records for 137,215 species [32]. We searched GBIF and OBIS for chondrichthyan records from the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (as defined above) and downloaded them. We checked pictures and records to exclude duplicates from the two databases and the MECO dataset and converted the data to the MECO database format for analysis (see below).

2.4. Citizen Science: The Mediterranean Elasmobranchs Citizen Observations (MECO) Project

The MECO project was launched in 2014 in response to enthusiastic scuba divers uploading pictures of sharks and rays from their dives [33]. It aims to collate knowledge on chondrichthyan occurrence, seasonality, and distribution using citizen science and social media. The project involves the collaboration of local scientists, which gradually expanded operation to eleven countries and ten Facebook groups (www.facebook.com/pg/theMECOproject; accessed on 1 May 2020). In MECO, participants report their sightings with photographic evidence. Scientific experts request further information, when needed, such as date, location, specimen length and weight, number of individuals observed, and depth of the observation (if applicable). The experts then check pictures for authenticity by using a Google automatic image recognition tool, and identify all original pictures to the lowest possible taxonomic level. Whenever possible, experts also record data such as maturity, gestation, and sex. Finally, there is also a two-way dialogue between citizen participants and scientific experts to retrieve historical records based on old pictures and social media posts.

2.5. Updated Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Bibliographic data were critically analysed and taxonomically updated to the latest nomenclature available. Specimens recorded through open-access databases and the MECO project were identified to the lowest taxonomic level possible following [34,35]. Species nomenclature follows the Eschmeyer’s Catalog of Fishes [36].

3. Results

Updated Checklist of Chondrichthyans in Cyprus

The literature review revealed 12 publications reporting chondrichthyan records in Cypriot waters (Table 1 and references therein). Twenty more articles mentioned cartilaginous fishes to occur around Cyprus, but they did not have sufficient information about sightings to be included in our review (e.g., general reports with no coordinated or declared areas around Cyprus, reports of species found in auction markets, papers based on International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) data working with offshore longlining boats potentially in international waters, field identification guides, and publications from other locations (e.g., Spain) that appeared in the search), and thus were excluded.
Data mining in GBIF yielded 135 records, with over half of them (n = 85) recorded in 2009. Notably, 89 records (reported as MATERIAL_SAMPLE) were from scientific surveys (e.g., [37]), including 55 from the DFMR and 23 from Dr. Andrew Griffiths at the University of Exeter (United Kingdom). About a third of these records were reported as PRESERVED_SPECIMEN, mainly by DFMR. The majority (~71%) of these records regard specimens subsequently identified to the species level. Spurdog sharks of the genus Squalus Linnaeus, 1758 were the specimens most frequently reported (n = 39), followed by the marbled electric ray Torpedo marmorata (Risso, 1810) (n = 21). The blackmouth catshark Galeus melastomus (Rafinesque, 1810) and the thornback ray Raja clavata (Linnaeus, 1758) were recorded ten times each. One of the DFMR records refers to the kitefin shark Dalatias licha (Bonnaterre, 1788), a species not recorded yet from Cyprus in the scientific literature (Table 1). Data mining in OBIS yielded 69 additional records of at least14 chondrichthyan species, with the majority of records (n = 48) coming from the BOLD Public Fish Data dataset (https://obis.org/dataset/292f775d-c300-4e21-8af2-b3b16a0a0ddc; accessed on 1 May 2020). No duplicates between OBIS and GBIF were found. Among records included, Raja clavata was the species most frequently reported, followed by the brown ray Raja miraletus Linnaeus, 1758 (n = 6) and by T. marmorata (n = 6).
The MECO project yielded 117 chondrichthyan observations of at least 23 different species. These sightings spanned the years 1970–2020, but most (78%) were from 2016–2019 (Table A1). Over half (54%) of the records were collected between June and September. Around half of the records came from recreational fishers (Figure 2B), 17% from scuba-divers (Figure 2C), 15% from snorkelers (Figure 2C), and 10% from professional fishers (Figure 2A). Most specimens were identified to species level, and the most common reports included the blackchin guitarfish Glaucostegus cemiculus (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1817) (n = 15), the common stingray Dasyatis pastinaca (Linnaeus, 1758) (n = 11), and the bull ray Aetomylaeus bovinus (Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1817) (n = 10). Observations of the round fantail stingray Taeniurops grabatus (Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1817) and of the sawback angelshark Squatina aculeata (Cuvier, 1829) also constituted the first records of these species in Cyprus (Table 1; Figure 3).
The updated checklist of chondrichthyans in Cyprus is reported in Table 1. It is now composed of 60 species, 15 more than the previous checklist (see [30]), with three species first recorded from Cyprus during this review.

4. Discussion

The updated chondrichthyan fauna of Cyprus now includes 32 species of sharks and 28 species of batoids (skates and rays), and accounts for about 70% of the total chondrichthyan biota known from the Mediterranean Sea [7]. We do not expect that this list is complete or free from errors. In fact, shallow habitats around Cyprus are indeed targeted by recreational and professional fishers, and are regularly dived year-round by locals and tourists, thus providing a wealth of photographic records of inshore chondrichthyans. However, the deep-sea waters around Cyprus are almost unexplored, and this may be why, since the last list provided by [30], 15 new species have been recorded in the past 15 years. Finally, four species are listed here with caution, namely Sphyrna mokarran (Rüppell, 1837), Carcharhinus brevipinna (Valenciennes, 1839), and Carcharhinus melanopterus (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824), whose Mediterranean records are generally very scarce and often based on misidentifications [7], and Dasyatis marmorata (Steindachner, 1892), whose records should be confirmed through molecular means [7].
Despite these potential limitations, results of the present study confirm the importance of open-access biodiversity databases and citizen science approaches. Alongside these data, EU guidelines for data policy (EU REG 2017/1004), the Open Data Directive that entered into force on 16 July 2019 (Directive (EU) 2019/1024) to promote “open access policies” from publicly funded research and the FAIR (findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability) principles should be also taken into consideration for the elaboration of an open-access and transparent framework for commercial and survey fisheries data, in parallel to what is already in use for data in other areas including the ICES area. GBIF and OBIS records respectively accounted for 42.5% and 20.4% of the final dataset, including a species new for Cyprus. Funding and institutional support to such databases are critical, as these data may be useful in order to influence science-based policy decisions [12,50].
The citizen science MECO project yielded more than 100 unpublished elasmobranch records in a single year, including those of two species newly recorded here from Cyprus. It also allowed us to trace relevant data regarding historical ecology and species biology and ecology. As an example, until our work, the big eye thresher shark Alopias superciliosus Lowe, 1841 was only known from Cyprus based on records held in 2010 and 2015 [45]. We collected evidence that the species had been recorded from Cyprus since at least ~1970, but was probably misidentified in the past as the common thresher Alopias vulpinus (Bonnaterre, 1788). Our data also confirm the findings of [49], who suggested that Cyprus should be considered a crucial area for the conservation of G. cemiculus, a species listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List and whose populations have drastically decreased all along the African coastline due to overfishing [51]. In addition to Cyprus, this taxon now only survives in few locations in the Mediterranean Sea, namely, the Gulf of Gabes [52], the Israel coast [53], and Iskenderun Bay [54]. In addition, we recorded a pregnant G. cemiculus, suggesting that members of this species nurse and potentially spawn in Cyprus; a specimen of A. bovinus observed on different days in Akrotiri Bay (south coast of Cyprus), suggesting site fidelity by this species; migration routes by M. mobular, with aggregations of large specimens occurring in late winter–early spring; and in general, spawning aggregations of stingrays (Dasyatis pastinaca and Bathytoshia lata), with pregnant females observed during spring and summer seasons.
Apart from the data and the observations new reported here, we noticed that professional fishers communicated (caught) elasmobranchs listed as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List in 67% of the cases, whereas this percentage decreased to 52% when analysing data provided by recreational fishers. These numbers agree with other Mediterranean studies; for example, about 50–60% of the elasmobranch landings in Greek sites were threatened species [55]. However, it is also possible that fishers mostly communicated to us species perceived as rare, while other common taxa (such as, for example, Raja species) were usually considered as of “no interest”. Finally, we traced ten illegal fishing activities, accounting for 8% of the MECO records available. In addition, one participant posted on social media an encounter with the vulnerable species Isurus oxyrinchus Rafinesque, 1810, but then a spear fisher used this information to locate and kill the fish. Although the fisher may have been potentially unaware of its protection status and conservation importance, the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research of Cyprus initiated legal procedures against him, with the results of this procedure still pending. Such information is vital in understanding interactions of fishers with vulnerable and threatened species as well as illegal incidents that might occur.

5. Conclusions

Our study highlights the knowledge gaps that exist in elasmobranch occurrence, ecology, and interactions with human activities. In response, Cyprus has recently increased the scientific team involved in the data collection framework through the DFMR, recognising a major opportunity for capacity building in monitoring programs with more on-board fisheries observations. Given the success of citizen science projects in other regions and the emergence of MECO project, the training of divers and snorkelers using bespoke local identification guides may offer another cost-effective means of obtaining data on diversity, abundance, and seasonality of elasmobranchs around Cyprus. Satellite tracking, acoustic tagging, and baited remote underwater video cameras may also offer a suite of more technical tools to recognise the importance of Cypriot waters for Mediterranean chondrichthyans. An ongoing EU-LIFE project (Elasmobranch Low Impact Fishing Experience) includes the training of monitoring authorities and fishers on species identification, relevant legislation, safe release of individuals, as well as satellite tagging to estimate mortalities following incidental by-catch. In addition, the DFMR, in cooperation with a regional FAO project (EastMed and General Fisheries Commission of Mediterranean), organised a tailored species identification webinar for scientific observers, officers, and control inspectors, in order to enhance data quality and acquisition. This activity is provisioned to be an ongoing process and was already proposed at the last EastMed project annual coordination committee meeting (by the Cyprus delegation) to have a regionalised application. The hope is that all these efforts will reduce fishing impacts and will turn the tide in favour of heightened protection of the Cypriot and Mediterranean chondrichthyans and biota in general.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization: I.G.; methodology: I.G., P.K., D.K.M. and F.S.; validation: F.S., I.T., C.C., A.B., D.K. (Demetris Kletou) and F.C.; formal analysis: I.G. and D.K. (Dimitra Katsada); data curation: I.G., V.M., A.A., A.K., M.M. and R.N.A.-S.; writing—original draft preparation: I.G. and P.K.; writing—review and editing: all co-authors; visualization: I.G.; supervision: P.K., F.S., J.M.H.-S. and D.K.M.; project funding acquisition: P.K., D.K. (Demetris Kletou) and I.G. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Funding

This research was funded by the LIFE ELIFE project (grant number LIFE18 NAT/IT/000846).

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Acknowledgments

We warmly thank all citizen scientists that reported elasmobranch observations and all MECO members that helped to gather data from our region. This work was supported by the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union—LIFE ELIFE project [Grant Agreement LIFE18 NAT/IT/000846] and is part of the joint PhD project of Ioannis Giovos (University of Patras, Greece, and University of Padova, Italy).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

Table A1. Records of elasmobranchs reported to the Mediterranean Elasmobranchs Citizen Observations (MECO) project including information about the date, the area, the species, the number of individuals, the observation type, the animal status, the growth stage (A/J), the sex (M/F), the depth and the substrate.
Table A1. Records of elasmobranchs reported to the Mediterranean Elasmobranchs Citizen Observations (MECO) project including information about the date, the area, the species, the number of individuals, the observation type, the animal status, the growth stage (A/J), the sex (M/F), the depth and the substrate.
DateTime of DayAreaSpeciesCountObservation TypeAnimal StatusA/JM/FDepthSubstrate
24 August 2019 Aetomylaeus bovinus1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdultFemale Unknown
9 August 2019 Cape GrecoAetomylaeus bovinus1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Sandy
3 September 2019 Akrotiri BayAetomylaeus bovinus1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdultFemale Unknown
31 October 2018 Aetomylaeus bovinus2Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult 8 mUnknown
16 June 2018 Ammochostos BayAetomylaeus bovinus1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Rocky
27 August 2019 Ammochostos BayAetomylaeus bovinus1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult 12 mSandy
27 August 2019DaytimeCape GrecoAetomylaeus bovinus1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Sandy
14 August 2016 Akrotiri BayAetomylaeus bovinus1RecreationalAliveAdult Sandy
3 September 2019 Akrotiri BayAetomylaeus bovinus1RecreationalAliveAdult Rocky
6 August 2019DaytimePaphosBathytoshia centroura1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdultFemale0Unknown
2 May 2018 Cape GrecoBathytoshia centroura1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdultFemale Unknown
29 July 2017 Akrotiri BayBathytoshia centroura1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Unknown
28 June 2019 Cape GrecoBathytoshia centroura2Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult 12–15 mSandy
3 August 2019 Bathytoshia centroura1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdultFemale Unknown
23 July 2019 Bathytoshia centroura1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdultFemale Sandy
1 September 2018 PaphosBathytoshia centroura3RecreationalCaught and releasedAdultFemale2 mSandy
14 August 2016 Akrotiri BayBathytoshia centroura1RecreationalAliveAdult Sandy
14 August 2017 Carcharhinus brevipinna1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdult 0Unknown
23 February 2019 Carcharhinus plumbeus1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
5 April 2016 PaphosCarcharhinus plumbeus1RecreationalCaught and releasedAdultFemale Unknown
20 August 2018 Akrotiri BayCarcharhinus plumbeus4RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
4 August 2019 Akrotiri BayCarcharhinus sp. 1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
22 August 2019NightLarnaca BayCarcharhinus sp. 1RecreationalKilled/fishedJuvenile 0Unknown
5 October 2019DaytimePervolia-Mazotos-TochniCarcharhinus sp. 1RecreationalKilled/fishedJuvenile 0Unknown
24 August 2019DaytimeAkrotiri BayCarcharhinus sp. 1RecreationalKilled/fishedJuvenile 0Unknown
5 March 2019 Carcharhinus sp. 3ProfessionalKilled/fished Unknown
7 August 2017 PaphosCarcharhinus sp. 1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
9 August 2017 PaphosCarcharhinus sp. 2RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
29 November 2010 Centrophorus cfr. uyato1 Killed/fishedAdult Unknown
6 January 2020DaytimePaphosCentrophorus cfr. uyato1RecreationalCaught and releasedAdult 0Unknown
1 September 2019 Akrotiri BayDasyatidae1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveJuvenile 4 mSandy
18 August 2017 AkamasDasyatidae1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveJuvenile Unknown
7 August 2018 AkamasDasyatidae1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveJuvenile Sandy
2 August 2017 AkamasDasyatidae4Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdultMale5–6 mUnknown
1 June 2019 Ammochostos BayDasyatidae1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveJuvenile Sandy
4 July 2018 Akrotiri BayDasyatis pastinaca3Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive 4 mRocky
25 June 2018 AkamasDasyatis pastinaca12Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveJuvenile Sandy
3 September 2019 Akrotiri BayDasyatis pastinaca1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveJuvenile Sandy
PaphosDasyatis pastinaca1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive Female Sandy
1 July 2017 Episkopi BayDasyatis pastinaca1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Unknown
21 June 2017 Ammochostos BayDasyatis pastinaca1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveJuvenile Sandy
23 September 2018 PaphosDasyatis pastinaca1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive Sandy
9 June 2019 Ammochostos BayDasyatis pastinaca1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveJuvenile Sandy
11 July 2019 PaphosDasyatis pastinaca7Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive 5 mSandy
3 February 2019 PaphosGaleus melastomus1RecreationalCaught and released Unknown
13 July 2016NightAkrotiri BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalKilled/fishedJuvenile 0Unknown
11 September 2018 Larnaca BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and releasedAdultMale Unknown
11 September 2018 Larnaca BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and releasedAdult Unknown
2 April 2019 Glaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenileMale2–3 mSandy
17 September 2019 Larnaca BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdultMale2–3 mSandy
8 February 2018 Akrotiri BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1 Caught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
12 September 2015 ZygiGlaucostegus cemiculus1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Seaweed beds or patches
PaphosGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and releasedAdultFemale Unknown
18 August 2018 Larnaca BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and releasedAdult 2 mUnknown
19 July 2018 Larnaca BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and releasedAdultMale Muddy
14 August 2016 Akrotiri BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalAliveAdultFemale Sandy
11 October 2018 Cape GrecoGymnura altavela1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Sandy
8 November 2018 Cape GrecoGymnura altavela1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Sandy
14 June 2019 Cape GrecoGymnura altavela1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive Sandy
6 January 2020MorningPaphosHexanchus griseus1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdult 0Unknown
7 May 2010MorningZygiHexanchus griseus1ProfessionalKilled/fished 0Unknown
25 July 2015DaytimeCape GrecoHexanchus sp.1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdult 0Unknown
14 May 2018 Larnaca BayIsurus oxyrinchus1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile 50 mUnknown
25 June 2019DaytimeCrhysochou BayIsurus oxyrinchus1RecreationalKilled/fishedJuvenile 90Unknown
March 2008MorningPaphosIsurus oxyrinchus1ProfessionalKilled/fished 0Unknown
9 December 2016 Akrotiri BayIsurus oxyrinchus1ProfessionalCaught and releasedJuvenile 0Unknown
21 September 2009DaytimeAkamasIsurus oxyrinchus1ProfessionalKilled/fishedAdult 0Unknown
15 July 2016MorningPaphosIsurus oxyrinchus1ProfessionalKilled/fishedAdult 0Unknown
23 March 2019 Akrotiri BayMobula mobular2Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive Unknown
26 March 2020MorningAkamasMobula mobular20 AliveAdult 0Unknown
1 July 2019 Episkopi BayMustelus asterias2Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive 8 mRocky
5 April 2018 Akrotiri BayPrionace glauca2 Alive 6 mUnknown
16 May 2018 LandbasedRaja radula1 Caught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
2 September 2018 Squalus blainville1RecreationalCaught and released Unknown
4 February 2019 PaphosSqualus blainville1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
22 August 2018 Larnaca BaySqualus blainville2RecreationalKilled/fishedJuvenile 350 mMuddy
15 January 2019DaytimePaphosSqualus blainville1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile 0Unknown
29 April 2018 PaphosSqualus blainville1 Killed/fished Unknown
17 December 2017 Akrotiri BaySqualus sp.3Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult 210 mUnknown
8 October 2019 Akrotiri BayTorpedo marmorata1 Killed/fishedAdult 0.5Sandy
April 2008DaytimeCape GrecoTorpedo marmorata1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult 14 mSandy
17 December 2019Daytime Unknown1RecreationalKilled/fished 0Unknown
21 January 2019 Unknown1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive Unknown
6 June 2019NightAkrotiri BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
19 July 2019MorningPaphosHexanchidae1 Killed/fished 0Unknown
16 May 2016NightAmmochostos BayHexanchus griseus1ProfessionalKilled/fishedAdult 0Unknown
16 July 2017 Larnaca BayHexanchus griseus1 Not SpecifiedJuvenile Unknown
30 April 2018 Akrotiri BayHexanchus sp.1 Found dead Male Unknown
11 May 2019 Hexanchus sp.1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdultFemale Unknown
10 May 2019NoonAmmochostos BayIsurus oxyrinchus2ProfessionalKilled/fished 50Unknown
27 March 2017 PaphosIsurus oxyrinchus1 Killed/fishedJuvenile Unknown
1970s Chrysochou BayAlopias superciliosus1ProfessionalKilled/fishedAdult Unknown
1970s AkamasIsurus oxyrinchus1ProfessionalKilled/fishedAdult Unknown
1970s AkamasOdontaspis ferox1ProfessionalKilled/fishedAdult Unknown
10 February 2020 PaphosSquatina aculeata1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdultFemale Unknown
1977 AkamasTaeniurops grabatus1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdult Unknown
3 September 2019 Akrotiri BayAetomylaeus bovinus1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdultFemale Sandy
30 August 2018 Bathytoshia centroura1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Unknown
16 April 2019DaytimePaphosCarcharhinus brevipinna1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdult 0Unknown
20 March 2019DaytimeZygiCarcharhinus plumbeus1 AliveAdult 0Water column
13 August 2014DaytimePaphosCarcharhinus sp. 1RecreationalKilled/fishedJuvenile 0Unknown
1 November 2014Night Dasyatidae1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdult Unknown
16 May 2015 Dasyatis pastinaca1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
15 June 2015DaytimePervolia-Mazotos-TochniDasyatis pastinaca1RecreationalAliveAdultFemale Sandy
5 August 2013 Crhysochou BayGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and releasedJuvenile Unknown
7 September 2017 PaphosGlaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalCaught and released Unknown
1 November 2015 Glaucostegus cemiculus1RecreationalAlive Sandy
9 June 2015NightPaphosGymnura altavela1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdult Unknown
24 April 2016MorningPervolia-Mazotos-TochniHexanchus griseus1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdultMale0Unknown
23 November 2019DaytimeLarnaca BayHexanchus griseus1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdultFemale0Unknown
23 April 2016DaytimeAkrotiri BayHexanchus nakamurai1RecreationalCaught and releasedAdultMale500Unknown
24 April 2016 Akrotiri BayHexanchus sp.1RecreationalUnknown Unknown
27 December 2019DaytimeAkrotiri BayPrionace glauca1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAlive 1Sandy
27 November 2019MorningAkrotiri BayPrionace glauca1 Alive 0Unknown
14 July 2013 Pervolia-Mazotos-TochniTaeniurops grabatus1RecreationalKilled/fishedAdult 20 mUnknown
21 March 2019DaytimePaphosUnknown1ProfessionalKilled/fishedAdult 0Unknown
30 June 2020DaytimeCape GrecoDasyatis marmorata1Scuba Diving-SnorkellingAliveAdult Seaweed beds or patches

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Figure 1. The Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus. In the context of this study, all available information within this range was concentrated to produce an updated checklist of chondrichthyans in the region.
Figure 1. The Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus. In the context of this study, all available information within this range was concentrated to produce an updated checklist of chondrichthyans in the region.
Fishes 06 00024 g001
Figure 2. Percentage of observations per: (A) broader area as reported by citizen scientists to the MECO project (numbers represent the percentage of observations) and (B,C) types of observers (i.e., professional, recreational fishers, and scuba divers-snorkelers, respectively) in different conservation statuses. Critically Endangered (CR) = in a particular and extremely critical state; Endangered (EN) = very high risk of extinction in the wild; Vulnerable (VU) = meets one of the five red list criteria and thus considered to be at high risk of unnatural (human-caused) extinction without further human intervention; Near Threatened (NT) = close to being at high risk of extinction in the near future; Least Concern (LC) = unlikely to become extinct in the near future. Data Deficient (DD) = lack of sufficient data to evaluate the species status.
Figure 2. Percentage of observations per: (A) broader area as reported by citizen scientists to the MECO project (numbers represent the percentage of observations) and (B,C) types of observers (i.e., professional, recreational fishers, and scuba divers-snorkelers, respectively) in different conservation statuses. Critically Endangered (CR) = in a particular and extremely critical state; Endangered (EN) = very high risk of extinction in the wild; Vulnerable (VU) = meets one of the five red list criteria and thus considered to be at high risk of unnatural (human-caused) extinction without further human intervention; Near Threatened (NT) = close to being at high risk of extinction in the near future; Least Concern (LC) = unlikely to become extinct in the near future. Data Deficient (DD) = lack of sufficient data to evaluate the species status.
Fishes 06 00024 g002
Figure 3. (A) Aggregation of Mobula mobular observed in 2020 in Cyprus. Photo credit: Marios Chisophorout. (B) A Carcharhinus plumbeus juvenile caught and released by a recreational fisher in 2018 in Cyprus. (C) A Squatina aculeata individual caught by a recreational fisher in 2020 in Cyprus. Photo credit: Stelios Kotzikas. (D) A female Glaucostegus cemiculus caught and released by a recreational fisher in 2010 in Cyprus. Photo Credit: Pampos Stavrou (E) A possible record of Dasyatis marmorata reported by Marine and Environmental Research Lab in 2020 from Cavo Greco, Cyprus. Photo Credit: Demetris Kleitou (F) A Taeniurops grabatus individual reported from a photo record that dates back in 1977 from Cyprus. Photo Credit: George Karamanos.
Figure 3. (A) Aggregation of Mobula mobular observed in 2020 in Cyprus. Photo credit: Marios Chisophorout. (B) A Carcharhinus plumbeus juvenile caught and released by a recreational fisher in 2018 in Cyprus. (C) A Squatina aculeata individual caught by a recreational fisher in 2020 in Cyprus. Photo credit: Stelios Kotzikas. (D) A female Glaucostegus cemiculus caught and released by a recreational fisher in 2010 in Cyprus. Photo Credit: Pampos Stavrou (E) A possible record of Dasyatis marmorata reported by Marine and Environmental Research Lab in 2020 from Cavo Greco, Cyprus. Photo Credit: Demetris Kleitou (F) A Taeniurops grabatus individual reported from a photo record that dates back in 1977 from Cyprus. Photo Credit: George Karamanos.
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Table 1. Updated checklist of chondrichthyan species recorded from Cyprus (eastern Mediterranean Sea), with number of records obtained through the various unpublished sources (GBIF, Gb; MECO, Me; OBIS, Ob) and references. Abbreviations used: * species newly recorded here; ** species listed with caution.
Table 1. Updated checklist of chondrichthyan species recorded from Cyprus (eastern Mediterranean Sea), with number of records obtained through the various unpublished sources (GBIF, Gb; MECO, Me; OBIS, Ob) and references. Abbreviations used: * species newly recorded here; ** species listed with caution.
TaxonUnpublished DataReferences
GbMeOb
Order HEXANCHIFORMES F. de Buen, 1926
Family Hexanchidae J. E. Gray, 1851
Heptranchias perlo (Bonnaterre, 1788)615[29,30,38]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [40] (recorded from 2009)
Hexanchus griseus (Bonnaterre, 1788) 6 [17,29,30,38]; [40] (recorded from 2015); [41]
Hexanchus nakamurai Teng, 1962 1 [42]
Order LAMNIFORMES L. S. Berg, 1958
Family Odontaspididae J. P. Müller & Henle, 1839
Carcharias taurus Rafinesque, 1810 [29,30]
Odontaspis ferox (Risso, 1810) 1 [17,29,30,43]
Family Lamnidae J. P. Müller and Henle, 1838
Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758) [30]
Isurus oxyrinchus Rafinesque, 1810 10 [17,30]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [41]
Lamna nasus (Bonnaterre, 1788) [30]; [39] (recorded from 2011)
Family Cetorhinidae Gill, 1861
Cetorhinus maximus (Gunnerus, 1765) [17,44]
Family Alopiidae Bonaparte, 1835
Alopias superciliosus Lowe, 1841 1 [17]; [39] (recorded from 2010); [45]
Alopias vulpinus (Bonnaterre, 1788) [29,30]
Order CARCHARHINIFORMES Compagno, 1977
Family Pentanchidae Smith, 1912
Galeus melastomus Rafinesque, 18101015[29,30,38,40]
Family Scyliorhinidae T. N. Gill, 1862
Scyliorhinus canicula (Linnaeus, 1758)8 5[29,30,38]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [40] (recorded from 2005); [46,47]
Scyliorhinus stellaris (Linnaeus, 1758) [30]; [40] (recorded from 2005)
Family Triakidae J. E. Gray, 1851
Mustelus asterias Cloquet, 1819 1 [29,30]
Mustelus mustelus (Linnaeus, 1758)1 1[29,30]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [40] (recorded from 2006)
Mustelus punctulatus Risso, 18271 [30]
Family Carcharhinidae D. S. Jordan & Evermann, 189612
** Carcharhinus brevipinna (Valenciennes, 1839) [30]
** Carcharhinus melanopterus (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824) [30]
Carcharhinus plumbeus (Nardo, 1827) 4 [30]
Prionace glauca (Linnaeus, 1758) [29,30]; [39] (recorded from 2010)
Family Sphyrnidae T. N. Gill, 1872
** Sphyrna mokarran (Rüppell, 1837) [30]
Sphyrna zygaena (Linnaeus, 1758) [29,30]
Order SQUALIFORMES Goodrich, 1909
Family Dalatiidae J. E. Gray, 1851
* Dalatias licha (Bonnaterre, 1788)1
Family Etmopteridae Fowler, 1934
Etmopterus spinax (Linnaeus, 1758)6 4 [30,38]; [40] (recorded from 2005); [43,48]
Family Oxynotidae Rafinesque, 1810
Oxynotus centrina (Linnaeus, 1758)2 1[30,38]; [40] (recorded from 2006)
Family Centrophoridae Bleeker, 1859
Centrophorus cf. uyato (Rafinesque, 1810)525[30]; [40] (recorded from 2009 as Centrophorus granulosus)
Family Squalidae Bonaparte, 183437
Squalus acanthias Linnaeus, 1758 [29,30,38]; [40] (recorded from 2006); [46,47]
Squalus blainville (Risso, 1827)155[30,38]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [40] (recorded from 2011)
Order SQUATINIFORMES F. de Buen, 1926
Family Squatinidae Bonaparte, 1838
* Squatina aculeata Cuvier, 1829 1
Squatina oculata Bonaparte, 1840 [15,30]
Squatina squatina (Linnaeus, 1758)2 [29,30]
Order TORPEDINIFORMES F. de Buen, 1926
Family Torpedinidae Bonaparte, 1838
Tetronarce nobiliana (Bonaparte, 1835) [29,30,38]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [40] (recorded from 2005);
Torpedo marmorata Risso, 18102126[29,30,38,46]; [40] (recorded from 2010); [47]
Torpedo torpedo (Linnaeus, 1758) [29,30,38]; [40] (recorded from 2013)
Order RHINOPRISTIFORMES Naylor, et al., 2012
Family Rhinobatidae J. P. Müller & Henle, 1837
Rhinobatos rhinobatos (Linnaeus, 1758) [29,30]
Family Glaucostegidae Bonaparte, 1846
Glaucostegus cemiculus (Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1817)315 [30,46,47,49]
Order RAJIFORMES L. S. Berg, 1940
Family Rajidae Bonaparte, 1831
Dipturus oxyrinchus (Linnaeus, 1758) [29,30,38]; [40] (recorded from 2005)
Leucoraja circularis (Couch, 1838)5 4[40] (recorded from 2009)
Leucoraja fullonica (Linnaeus, 1758) [38]; [40] (recorded from 2012)
Leucoraja naevus (Müller & Henle, 1841) [38]; [40] (recorded from 2015)
Raja asterias Delaroche, 1809 [29,30]; [40] (recorded from 2005)
Raja brachyura Lafont 1873 [40] (recorded from 2006)
Raja clavata Linnaeus, 175810 10[29,38]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [40] (recorded from 2005); [46,47]
Raja miraletus Linnaeus, 17586 6[29,30,38]; [40] (recorded from 2005); [46]
Raja montagui Fowler, 1910 [38]; [40] (recorded from 2005)
Raja polystigma Regan, 1923 [38]; [40] (recorded from 2006)
Raja radula Delaroche, 1809512[30,38]; [40] (recorded from 2006)
Raja undulata Lacepède, 1802 [40] (recorded from 2017)
Rostroraja alba (Lacepède, 1803) [38]; [40] (recorded from 2015)
Order MYLIOBATIFORMES Compagno, 1973 6
Family Dasyatidae D. S. Jordan, 18881
Bathytoshia lata (Garman, 1880) 9 [30]; [40] (recorded from 2009, as Dasyatis centroura); [46]
** Dasyatis marmorata (Steindachner, 1892) 1
Dasyatis pastinaca (Linnaeus, 1758)3112[29,30,38]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [40] (recorded from 2005); [47]
Pteroplatytrygon violacea (Bonaparte, 1832) [29,30]; [39] (recorded from 2006); [40] (recorded from 2018)
* Taeniurops grabatus (Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1817) 2
Family Gymnuridae Fowler, 1934
Gymnura altavela (Linnaeus, 1758) 4 [29,30]
Family Aetobatidae White & Naylor, 2016
Aetomylaeus bovinus (Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1817) 10 [29,30,46]
Family Myliobatidae Bonaparte, 1835
Myliobatis aquila (Linnaeus, 1758) [46,47]
Family Rhinopteridae Jordan & Evermann, 1896
Rhinoptera marginata (Geoffroy St. Hilaire, 1817) [30]
Family Mobulidae Gill, 1893
Mobula mobular (Bonnaterre, 1788) 2 [29,30]
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