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Stable-isotope comparisons between embryos and mothers of a placentatrophic shark species

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Stable nitrogen (15N) and carbon (13C) isotopes of Atlantic sharpnose shark Rhizoprionodon terraenovae embryos and mothers were analysed. Embryos were generally enriched in 15N in all studied tissue relative to their mothers' tissue, with mean differences between mother and embryo 15N (i.e. Δ15N) being 1·4‰ for muscle, 1·7‰ for liver and 1·1‰ for cartilage. Embryo muscle and liver were enriched in 13C (both Δ13C means = 1·5‰) and embryo cartilage was depleted (Δ13C mean = −1·01‰) relative to corresponding maternal tissues. While differences in 15N and 13C between mothers and their embryos were significant, muscle 15N values indicated embryos to be within the range of values expected if they occupied a similar trophic position as their respective mothers. Positive linear relationships existed between embryo total length (LT) and Δ15N for muscle and liver and embryo LT and Δ13C for muscle, with those associations possibly resulting from physiological differences between smaller and larger embryos or differences associated with the known embryonic nutrition shift (yolk feeding to placental feeding) that occurs during the gestation of this placentatrophic species. Together these results suggest that at birth, the 15N and 13C values of R. terraenovae are likely higher than somewhat older neonates whose postpartum feeding habits have restructured their isotope profiles to reflect their postembryonic diet.
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Keywords: Atlantic sharpnose shark; Rhizoprionodon terraenovae; carbon isotopes; multiple tissues; nitrogen isotopes; shark neonate

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada 2: Department of Biology, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37132, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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