Adding to our isotope axes @ IsoEcol 2016 (Dr Wyatt)

Amino acid and radiocarbon insights from captive whale sharks

Alex S.J. WYATT1*, Rui Matsumoto2, Yoshito Chikaraishi3, Yosuke Miyari1, Yusuke Yokoyama1, Keiichi Sato2, Nao Ohkouchi3, Toshi Nagata1

1Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba, JAPAN
2Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Motobu, Okinawa, JAPAN
3Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka, JAPAN
*Presenting author

Stable isotope analyses (SIA) have the potential to provide novel insights into spatial and temporal patterns in the trophic ecology of poorly understood organisms like whale sharks Rhincodon typus. However, interpreting SIA depends on accurate diet-tissue discrimination factors (DTDF) to quantify diets and trophic positions, with experimental derivations of DTDF rare for such large-bodied organisms. Captive R. typus have provided a unique opportunity to validate a range of SIA, compound-specific isotope analyses (CSIA) and radioisotope approaches in the world’s largest fish and one of three planktivorous sharks. Diet records over the past five years revealed a diet dominated by North Pacific and Antarctic krill, 44% and 49% of weighted diet for Euphausia pacifica and E. superba, respectively. Despite the well-known diet, SIA of fin tissue from three captive R. typus (7.1, 7.2, and 8.4 m in length) proved hard to reconcile, especially for bulk carbon. In contrast, CSIA of amino acid (AA) nitrogen in the sharks’ tissue was relatively stable over time, despite evidence of variation in AA compositions and δ15N-AA of diet components. Tissue radiocarbon further suggested either long turnover in fin tissues (27 months), or the preferential assimilation of the smaller E. pacifica14C of 3 ‰ compared to -112 ‰ for E. superba). Daily-scale analysis of radiocarbon in R. typus faeces may support the preferential assimilation hypothesis, faeces generally being depleted relative to diet. Together, CSIA-AA and radiocarbon analyses add multiple addtional axes to our isotope space and may alleviate some of the complications involved in interpreting bulk SIA in ecological studies.

Reef fish trophodynamics (Wyatt et al., Coral Reefs)

Stable isotope analysis reveals community-level variation in fish trophodynamics across a fringing coral reef

A. S. J. Wyatt, A. M. Waite, S. Humphries

In contrast to trophodynamic variations, the marked zonation in physical and biological processes across coral reefs and the concomitant changes in habitat and community structure are well documented. In this study, we demonstrate consistent spatial changes in the community-level trophodynamics of 46 species of fish across the fringing Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, using tissue stable isotope and fatty acid analyses. Increasing nitrogen (δ15N) and decreasing carbon (δ13C) isotope ratios in the tissues of herbivores, planktivores and carnivores with increasing proximity to the ocean were indicative of increased reliance on oceanic productivity. In contrast, detritivores and corallivores displayed no spatial change in δ15N or δ13C, indicative of the dependence on reef-derived material across the reef. Higher δ13C, as well as increased benthic- and bacterial-specific fatty acids, suggested reliance on reef-derived production increased in back-reef habitats. Genus-level analyses supported community- and trophic group-level trends, with isotope modelling of species from five genera (Abudefduf sexfasciatus, Chromis viridis, Dascyllus spp.,Pomacentrus spp. and Stegastes spp.), demonstrating declining access to oceanic zooplankton and, in the case of Pomacentrus spp. and Stegastes spp., a switch to herbivory in the back-reef. The spatial changes in fish trophodynamics suggest that the relative roles of oceanic and reef-derived nutrients warrant more detailed consideration in reef-level community ecology.

Reef fish discrimination (Wyatt et al., PLoS One)

Variability in Isotope Discrimination Factors in Coral Reef Fishes: Implications for Diet and Food Web Reconstruction

Alex S.J. Wyatt, Stuart Humphries, Anya M. Waite

Interpretation of stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen (δ13C and δ15N) is generally based on the assumption that with each trophic level there is a constant enrichment in the heavier isotope, leading to diet-tissue discrimination factors of 3.4‰ for 15N (ΔN) and ~0.5‰ for13C (ΔC). Diet-tissue discrimination factors determined from paired tissue and gut samples taken from 152 individuals from 26 fish species at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia demonstrate a large amount of variability around constant values. While caution is necessary in using gut contents to represent diet due to the potential for high temporal variability, there were significant effects of trophic position and season that may also lead to variability in ΔN under natural conditions. Nitrogen enrichment increased significantly at higher trophic levels (higher tissue δ15N), with significantly higher ΔN in carnivorous species. Changes in diet led to significant changes in ΔN, but not tissue δ15N, between seasons for several species:Acanthurus triostegus, Chromis viridis, Parupeneus signatus and Pomacentrus moluccensis. These results confirm that the use of meta-analysis averages for ΔN is likely to be inappropriate for accurately determining diets and trophic relationships using tissue stable isotope ratios. Where feasible, discrimination factors should be directly quantified for each species and trophic link in question, acknowledging the potential for significant variation away from meta-analysis averages and, perhaps, controlled laboratory diets and conditions.

Keywords: diet, food web, gut contents, mixing models, Ningaloo Reef, tissue isotopes