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Sea cucumber habitat differentiation and site retention as determined by intraspecific stable isotope variation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matt Slater


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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (δ13C/δ15N) were assessed as a means to ascertain the recent in situ feeding history of the common New Zealand sea cucumber Australostichopus mollis in relation to nutrient enrichment from a longline green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) farm in Northern New Zealand. δ13C and δ15N isotopic signatures and the ratios of sea cucumbers sampled from within the impact footprint of the mussel farm were compared with those of sea cucumbers residing on adjacent natural reefs. Sea cucumbers from beneath mussel farming longlines had significantly different δ13C stable isotope signatures in comparison with sea cucumbers collected from neighbouring natural reef habitats. This difference supports the hypothesis that sea cucumbers in the same bay maintain distinctly different feeding histories, with those residing beneath mussel farming longlines deriving tissue carbon from sediment impacted by farming activities. This hypothesis is further supported by the finding that the isotope signature of sediment collected from beneath the mussel farm is consistent with the expectation that sea cucumbers were feeding on and consuming sediment enriched with bivalve waste (faeces and pseudo-faeces). In contrast, the nitrogen stable isotope signature (δ15N) was found to be similar between sites for both sea cucumbers and assumed food sources. Both findings lend support to the viability of future sea cucumber/green-lipped mussel farm polyculture systems. Sea cucumbers in different locations (mussel farm, natural reef) possessed distinctly different isotope signatures, suggesting that mixing of sea ranched sea cucumbers with natural reef populations would be negligible or non-existent. Similarities between the isotope signatures in low metabolic tissue of sea cucumbers residing at the mussel farm site to that of mussel farm-impacted sediment suggest that cucumbers beneath mussel farms appear to have high rates of retention at the farm site. © 2010 The Authors. Aquaculture Research © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Slater M, Carton A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Aquaculture Research

Year: 2010

Volume: 41

Issue: 10

Pages: e695-e702

Print publication date: 23/07/2010

ISSN (print): 1355-557X

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2109

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2109.2010.02607.x


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