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Effects of size and diet on stable hydrogen isotope values (δD) in fish: implications for tracing origins of individuals and their food sources

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Recent studies suggest that stable hydrogen isotope ratios (δD) of fish can be used to track their watershed origin and the relative contributions of source material. Both applications assume that there is no metabolic or trophic effect on tissue δD. We studied the local variation of δD values in four fish species of contrasting size and feeding habits in an isotopically homogenous reservoir (Flix, Spain). Other isotopic values (δ15N, δ13C) and trace metal content were measured as indicators of trophic and bioaccumulation patterns. In addition, isotopic values (δD, δ15N, δ13C) of other food web components were measured for comparison. Muscle δD values differed greatly among fish species: European catfish, Silurus glanis (–131‰); common carp, Cyprinus carpio (–141‰); rudd, Scardinius erythrophthalmus (–158‰); and roach, Rutilus rutilus (–163‰). The influence of fish size and trophic position affected the fish δD values. Possible mechanisms that drive δD variation among fish might be a metabolic effect and (or) the compounding effect of ambient water δD on exchangeable H at each trophic stage. Our findings showed that size and feeding habits are factors that should be controlled when tracing origins of fish or their dependence on nutrient inputs using δD measurements.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes (CEAB-CSIC), Accés Cala St. Francesc 14, Blanes 17300, Spain. 2: Environment Canada, 11 Innovation Boulevard, Saskatoon, SK S7N 3H5, Canada.

Publication date: November 21, 2011

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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