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Diet–tissue discrimination factors of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in blood of Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

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Abstract:

Analysis of carbon (13C/12C) and nitrogen (15N/14N) stable isotope ratios (hereafter δ13C and δ15N, respectively) in animal tissues is a powerful tool in food-web studies. However, isotopic ratios of prey are not transmitted directly to a consumer, as a diet–tissue discrimination factor (denoted Δ) occurs between sources and consumer’s tissues. An accurate assessment of the diet of a consumer with stable isotopes thus requires that the Δ13C and Δ15N of the studied species are known. Our aim was to establish Δ13C and Δ15N values in the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus (L., 1758)). Moreover, we assessed the potential effect of ethanol preservation of blood samples on δ13C and δ15N values. We kept four captive adult Snowy Owls on a pure diet of mice for ≥6 weeks. We then collected mouse muscle and blood samples from the owls and analyzed their δ13C and δ15N values. Δ13C and Δ15N values (mean ± SE) for owl blood were +0.3‰ ± 0.2‰ and +1.9‰ ± 0.1‰, respectively. These values are the first discrimination factors ever reported in Strigiformes and are lower, for Δ15N, than those obtained in terrestrial carnivores and other bird species, including falcons. Preservation in ethanol did not significantly affect δ13C and δ15N values.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/z11-008

Affiliations: 1: Département de biologie et Centre d’études nordiques, 1045 avenue de la Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada. 2: Faculté de médecine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, 3200 rue Sicotte, C.P. 5000, Saint-Hyacinthe, QC J2S 7C6, Canada. 3: Département de biologie, chimie et géographie and Centre d’études nordiques, 300 Allée des Ursulines, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, QC G5L 3A1, Canada.

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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