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Differential fractionation of delta C-13 and delta N-15 among fish tissues: implications for the study of trophic interactions

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


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1. Stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon are widely used in the evaluation and understanding of trophic interactions, and especially so in aquatic food-webs. However, differences among tissues which occur in consumers such as fish may confound resolution of these ecological relationships, and greatly affect dietary compositions calculated through mass-balance equations. 2. delta(13)C and delta(15)N Were determined for homogenized whole fry (approximate to 2.7 g) and particular tissues (white muscle, red muscle, liver and heart) of juveniles (approximate to 20.6 g) of Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. 3. Differences in delta(13)C and delta(15)N were observed among tissues; removal of lipid resulted in these tissues becoming statistically indistinguishable but more variable in delta(13)C, particularly in tissues with higher Lipid content. Differences in delta(15)N among tissues may be related to the relative composition of 'essential' and 'non-essential' amino acids. 5. Acidification, which is used to reduce variability caused by the presence of inorganic carbonate, had a significant effect on delta(15)N, while having a non-significant effect on the delta(13)C. This was the case for whole ground fish-fry, which contained 22.6% inorganic carbonates in the form of bones and scales, and for individual fish tissues which contained only very small amounts of inorganic carbonate. 6. White muscle was found to be less variable in delta(13)C and delta(15)N than all other tissues, and is probably the best tissue for use in ecological work. Red muscle, which is often closely associated with white muscle, is more variable in delta(13)C and may constitute a source of significant error in source material identification and dietary overlap.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pinnegar JK, Polunin NVC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Functional Ecology

Year: 1999

Volume: 13

Issue: 2

Pages: 225-231

Print publication date: 01/04/1999

ISSN (print): 0269-8463

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2435

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2435.1999.00301.x


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