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Isotopic evidence of distinct feeding ecologies and movement patterns in two migratory predators (yellowfin tuna and swordfish) of the western Indian Ocean
Ménard, F.; Lorrain, A.; Potier, M.; Marsac, F. (2007). Isotopic evidence of distinct feeding ecologies and movement patterns in two migratory predators (yellowfin tuna and swordfish) of the western Indian Ocean. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 153(2): 141-152. hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00227-007-0789-7
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Ménard, F.
  • Lorrain, A.
  • Potier, M.
  • Marsac, F.

Abstract
    Ecologists primarily use d15N values to estimate the trophic level of organisms, while d13C, and even recently d15N, are utilized to delineate feeding habitats. However, many factors can influence the stable isotopic composition of consumers, e.g. age, starvation or isotopic signature of primary producers. Such sources of variability make the interpretation of stable isotope data rather complex. To examine these potential sources of variability, muscle tissues of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and swordfish (Xiphias gladius) of various body lengths were sampled between 2001 and 2004 in the western Indian Ocean during different seasons and along a latitudinal gradient (23°S to 5°N). Body length and latitude effects on d15N and d13C were investigated using linear models. Both latitude and body length significantly affect the stable isotope values of the studied species but variations were much more pronounced for d15N. We explain the latitudinal effect by differences in nitrogen dynamics existing at the base of the food web and propagating along the food chain up to top predators. This spatial pattern suggests that yellowfin and swordfish populations exhibit a relatively unexpected resident behaviour at the temporal scale of their muscle tissue turnover. The body length effect is significant for both species but this effect is more pronounced in swordfish as a consequence of their different feeding strategies, reflecting specific physiological abilities. Swordfish adults are able to reach very deep water and have access to a larger size range of prey than yellowfin tuna. In contrast, yellowfin juveniles and adults spend most of their time in the surface waters and large yellowfin tuna continue to prey on small organisms. Consequently, nitrogen isotopic signatures of swordfish tissues are higher than those of yellowfin tuna and provide evidence for different trophic levels between these species. Thus, in contrast to d13C, d15N analyses of tropical Indian Ocean marine predators allow the investigation of complex vertical and spatial segregation, both within and between species, even in the case of highly opportunistic feeding behaviours. The linear models developed in this study allow us to make predictions of d15N values and to correct for any body length or latitude differences in future food web studies.

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