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Isotopic niche variability in macroconsumers of the East Scotia Ridge (Southern Ocean) hydrothermal vents: What more can we learn from an ellipse?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr William Reid, Dr Christopher Sweeting, Dr Benjamin Wigham, Professor Nick Polunin



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Aspects of between-individual trophic niche width can be explored through the isotopic niche concept. In many cases isotopic variability can be influenced by the scale of sampling and biological characteristics including body-size or sex. Sample size corrected (SEAc) and Bayesian (SEAb) standard ellipse areas and generalised least squares (GLS) models were used to explore the spatial variability of δ13C and δ15N in Kiwa tyleri (decapod), Gigantopelta chessoia (peltospirid gastropod) and Vulcanolepas scotiaensis (stalked barnacle) collected from three hydrothermal vent field sites (E2, E9N and E9S) on the East Scotia Ridge (ESR), Southern Ocean. SEAb only revealed spatial differences in isotopic niche area in male K. tyleri. However, the parameters used to draw the SEAc, eccentricity (E) and angle of the major SEAc axis to the x-axis (θ), indicated spatial differences in the relationships between δ13C and δ15N in all three species. The GLS models indicated that there were spatial differences in isotope-length trends, which were related to E and θ of the SEAc. This indicated that E and θ were potentially driven by underlying trophic and biological processes that varied with body size. Examination of the isotopic niches using standard ellipse areas and its parameters in conjunction with length-based analyses provided a means by which a proportion of the isotopic variability within each species could be described. We suggest that the parameters E and θ offer additional ecological insight that has so far been overlooked in isotopic niche studies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Reid WDK, Sweeting CJ, Wigham BD, McGill RAR, Polunin NVC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Marine Ecology Progress Series

Year: 2016

Volume: 542

Pages: 13-24

Online publication date: 19/01/2016

Acceptance date: 24/11/2015

Date deposited: 28/01/2016

ISSN (print): 0171-8630

ISSN (electronic): 1616-1599

Publisher: Inter-Research Science Centre


DOI: 10.3354/meps11571


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Funder referenceFunder name
NE/F010664/1Natural Environment Research Council
LSMFBRIS043_04/10_R_09/10Life Science Mass Spectrometry Facility grant
NE/D01249X/1ChEsSO consortium grant