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Spatial variation and ontogenic shifts in the isotopic composition of Mediterranean littoral fishes

Lookup NU author(s): John Pinnegar, Professor Nick Polunin


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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures have been determined for littoral fishes from three localities in the Balearic Islands (NW Mediterranean) for trophic assessment. Variation in the isotopic composition was examined at multiple levels: the individual organism, individual populations (ontogenetic variation) and at area effects (different islands). Cluster analyses based on δ13C and δ15N resulted in two very different dendrograms for the fish assemblages from Menorca and Formentera. In both schemes, congeners of the genera Diplodus and Labrus did not cluster together, suggesting that closely related species do not necessarily feed on similar foods. Significant differences in δ15N were detected between locations for Scorpaena porcus, Scorpaena scrofa and Sciaena umbra, and significant differences in δ13C were detected for Scorpaena porcus and Scorpaena scrofa. Overall there were significant spatial differences in the trophic position of littoral fishes among the three Balearic Islands, and fishes from Palma, Mallorca tended to feed at a higher trophic level than fishes from either Menorca and Formentera. Large-scale geographic comparisons, using earlier data from three sites in western Mallorca and in Corsica revealed that throughout the western Mediterranean generally, the average trophic level of fishes differs remarkably little. However, large discrepancies were observed in δ15N for individual species, notably Scorpaena porcus, D. annularis, D. vulgaris and Serranus scriba. 13C composition of fishes did not seem to change greatly among the locations, although marked discrepancies were observed for D. puntazzo and Mullus surmuletus. Given the large-scale patterns we have observed, it is possible that the extent of multichannel omnivory which has been purported to exist in complex aquatic systems, may have been greatly overstated. Regression of δ15N and δ13C with fish body size revealed clear and significant trends for some species. In particular, δ15N appeared to increase with body length in the macrocarnivorous fishes Scorpaena porcus, Scorpaena scrofa. Serranus scriba and Sciaena umbra. Trends were less apparent in animals which feed primarily on small benthic invertebrates, notably the four Diplodus species (D. vulgaris, D. sargus, D. annularis, D. puntazzo), and the labrids Labrus viridis and L. merula. © Springer-Verlag 2004.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Deudero S, Pinnegar JK, Polunin NVC, Morey G, Morales-Nin B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Marine Biology

Year: 2004

Volume: 145

Issue: 5

Pages: 971-981

ISSN (print): 0025-3162

ISSN (electronic): 1432-1793

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00227-004-1374-y


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