Does seabird carrion contribute to the diet of the shore crab Carcinus maenas on the Isle of May, Scotland? An isotopic perspective

Watts, A.J.R., McCafferty, D.J. , Newton, J. and Bailey, D.M. (2011) Does seabird carrion contribute to the diet of the shore crab Carcinus maenas on the Isle of May, Scotland? An isotopic perspective. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 91(7), pp. 1459-1464. (doi:10.1017/S0025315410002286)

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Abstract

Scavengers are common in marine environments and provide an essential ecosystem service, helping to return nutrients and energy contained in carrion to the system. Knowledge of the prevalence of scavenging is required to fully understand marine food webs. As most scavengers are also predators it is usually unclear what proportion of their diet is derived from carrion, and if this proportion varies in time. In this study we set out to determine whether the input of seabird or other carrion could be detected in the stable isotope composition of the shore crab (Carcinus maenas). Shore crabs were captured in the intertidal zone of the Isle of May (Scotland) before and after the peak fledging of Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica). The stable isotope (delta(15)N and delta(13)C) compositions of crabs and the proposed carrion source were determined. Fifty crabs were selected (25 from before (IOM(1)) and 25 after the fledging period (IOM(2))). IOM(1) had a mean delta(15)N value of +13.85 parts per thousand and IOM(2) a mean of +13.53 parts per thousand. The mean delta(13)C values were -15.46 parts per thousand for IOM(1) and -15.87 parts per thousand for IOM(2). In contrast to our expectations, there was no evidence that shore crabs were feeding on seabird carrion following the post-fledging period of Atlantic puffins. Future sampling in autumn months following the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) breeding season may be useful in establishing if there is another route for nutrient and energy cycling between higher predators and marine scavengers at this location

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McCafferty, Dr Dominic and Newton, Dr Jason and Bailey, Dr David
Authors: Watts, A.J.R., McCafferty, D.J., Newton, J., and Bailey, D.M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Interdisciplinary Science Education Technologies and Learning
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences
Journal Name:Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
ISSN:0025-3154
Published Online:28 February 2011

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