Stable isotope ratios of a tropical marine predator: confounding effects of nutritional status during growth

Lee Cruz, L., McGill, R.A.R. , Goodman, S.J. and Hamer, K.C. (2012) Stable isotope ratios of a tropical marine predator: confounding effects of nutritional status during growth. Marine Biology, 159(4), pp. 873-880. (doi: 10.1007/s00227-011-1864-7)

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Stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen is frequently used to study the diets and foraging ecology of marine predators. However, isotopic values may also be affected by an individual’s nutritional status and associated physiological processes. Here, we use C and N stable isotopes in blood and feathers of blue-footed booby chicks at the Galápagos Islands to examine how isotopic values are related to body condition and growth rate, and to assess the consistency in the isotope ratios of individuals during growth. Size dimorphism in blue-footed boobies provided an additional opportunity to examine how isotope ratios differ between sexes in relation to body size and growth rate. There was no significant difference between sexes but both C and N stable isotopes were significantly negatively related to the body condition of chicks. These data were consistent with individual variation in physiological processes affecting fractionation, although we cannot rule out the possibility that they were also influenced to some extent by population-level variation in the stable isotope ratios of prey fed to chicks, for instance related to prey size, depth or lipid content. Our results highlight the need for methods that take proper account of confounding physiological factors in isotopic studies of foraging ecology and diet.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McGill, Dr Rona
Authors: Lee Cruz, L., McGill, R.A.R., Goodman, S.J., and Hamer, K.C.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Marine Biology
Published Online:25 January 2012

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