Trophic ecology of elasmobranch and teleost fishes in a large subtropical seagrass ecosystem

Published on
22. May 2020

Trophic ecology of elasmobranch and teleost fishes in a large subtropical seagrass ecosystem (Florida Big Bend) determined by stable isotope analysis

Peterson, C.T., Grubbs, R.D. & Mickle A.


Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses were used to infer relative trophic structure and examine regional variation in trophic dynamics of fishes in the Florida Big Bend, an approximately 300 km stretch of relatively pristine coastline in the eastern Gulf Of Mexico that contains over 250,000 ha of seagrass. The Florida Big Bend is home to a diverse assemblage of fauna; and the ecosystem is regionally important through its support of robust fishing (recreational and commercial) and eco-tourism industries. Stable isotope analyses suggest assemblages of fishes in the Florida Big Bend are trophically diverse, with considerable isotopic overlap across many taxa. Patterns of trophic structure corroborated the results of similar studies of these and related taxa and in other seagrass ecosystems, and there appear to be multiple channels of primary production. Large elasmobranch fishes were most enriched in δ 15N with values well above the teleost fishes sampled, while smaller and demersal elasmobranchs had δ 15N signatures comparable to several species of predatory teleosts. Results of stable isotope analyses suggested high trophic redundancy and overlap in resource use among both teleost and elasmobranch fishes. Comparisons of regional stable isotope values revealed some spatial variability and indicated the southern Big Bend is isotopically distinct, suggesting a distinct regional faunal zone in this region, potentially due to greatly reduced river influence in the southern portion of the system.

Environ Biol Fish 103, 683–701. DOI 10.1007


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