Isotope Discrimination in Planktivorous Elasmobranchs Focusing on the World’s Largest Fish, Captive Whale Sharks Rhincodon typus
Alex S.J. WYATT1* Rui Matsumoto2 Yoshito Chikaraishi3 Keiichi Sato2 Nao Ohkouchi3 Toshi Nagata1
1Marine Biogeochemistry Laboratory, Department of Chemical Oceanography, Atmosphere & 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
Accurate diet-tissue discrimination factors (DTDF) are essential for quantifying diets and trophic positions (TP) using stable isotope analyses (SIA), with potential variation between diets, tissues, organisms and environments arguing against untested application of meta-analysis averages (e.g. 3.4 ‰ for bulk nitrogen (Δ15Nbulk), ~0.5 ‰ for bulk carbon (Δ13Cbulk), and 7.6 ‰ and 0.4 ‰ for nitrogen of glutamic acid (Δ15Nglu) and phenylalanine (Δ15Nphe), respectively). Experimental derivations of DTDF in elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) are scarce, with large-bodied organisms difficult to maintain in captivity and non-lethal multi-tissue sampling problematic for both captive and wild individuals. SIA of captive whale sharks Rhincodon typus, one male (8.5 m in length) and two females (7.1 and 7.2 m), fed a mixed diet composed mainly (~ 48 % each) of Antarctic krill Euphausia superba (δ15N = 3.45 ‰, δ13C = -26.3 ‰) and North Pacific krill E. pacifica (δ15N = 5.88 ‰, δ13C = -21.6 ‰), provide an opportunity to examine DTDF in the world’s largest fish and one of three planktivorous sharks. DTDFs estimated based on temporally averaged diets for easily sampled but slow turnover fin tissue were close to previous observations, but varied between individuals, perhaps reflecting differing growth rates with size or physiological differences between the sexes: Δ15Nbulk (2.6, 3.3, 3.1 ‰), Δ13Cbulk (3.9, 4.5, 5.9 ‰), Δ15Nglu (7.6, 6.5, n.d. ‰) and Δ15Nphe (0.3, 0.2, n.d. ‰). Short turnover tissues, such as liver or blood, may be difficult or impossible to obtain for these species, requiring non-lethal isotopic proxies to examine diet and TP at higher temporal resolution. For instance, SIA of faecal material was highly variable but reflected day-to-day variation in minor (<3 %) components of the sharks’ diets. DTDF will be discussed in the context of sampling constraints related to multi-tissue SIA and recent radioisotope approaches for understanding feeding and aggregations of planktivorous elasmobranchs, including recent application to a wild caught (4.4 m) specimen of the smallest planktivorous shark, the rare megamouth shark Megachasma pelagios.