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Trophic segregation between sexes in the Black Skimmer revealed through the analysis of stable isotopes
Mariano-Jelicich, R.; Botto, F.; Martinetto, P.; Iribarne, O. (2008). Trophic segregation between sexes in the Black Skimmer revealed through the analysis of stable isotopes. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 155(4): 443-450.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Mariano-Jelicich, R.
  • Botto, F.
  • Martinetto, P.
  • Iribarne, O.

    The degree of individual or gender variation when exploiting food resources is an important aspect in the study of foraging ecology within a population. Previous information on non-breeding skimmers obtained through conventional methodologies suggested sex-related differences in prey species. In this study, stable isotope techniques were used to investigate the intraspecific segregation in diet and foraging habits of the Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger intercedens) at Mar Chiquita Coastal Lagoon (37°40'S, 57°22'W), Argentina. These results were compared with contemporary data on the trophic composition obtained by conventional methodologies. Blood samples were taken from birds captured with mist-nets during their non-breeding season. The isotopic signatures of skimmers showed a diet mainly composed of marine prey with some degree of estuarine fish intake. When comparing diet between sexes, males showed enrichment in 15N compared to females, while no differences were observed in 13C. The use of mixing models revealed differences in the relative composition of prey in the diet of male and female skimmers. This study highlights stable isotope analysis as a valuable tool to test inter-individual differences and sexual segregation in trophic ecology of Black Skimmers as compared to conventional methodologies. The results show a trophic segregation in the Black Skimmer during the non-breeding season that can be explained by differences in prey species and larger prey sizes of male skimmers. Our findings have significant implications for conservation since any environmental change occurring at wintering areas might have profound effects on several avian life-history traits, and could be different for males and females due to trophic segregation.

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