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Open Access Trophic position and isotopic niche of mangrove fish assemblages at both sides of the Isthmus of Panama

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Fish are important components of marine coastal ecosystems, often represented in food webs as second and third order consumers. Fish trophic position (TP) in these food webs can vary across ontogeny and its accurate estimation can provide insights into the functioning of these ecosystems. Mangrove ecosystem function can also vary depending on local and regional environmental conditions. Panamanian mangroves in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean occur under strikingly different environmental conditions after the closure of the Panama Isthmus > 3 myr ago and might likely function differently. Here, we use δ15N and δ13C and Bayesian models to calculate the TP and the Convex Hull area (TA) of the most common fish species inhabiting mangroves of the Gulf of Montijo and Bocas del Toro at the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Panama, respectively. Thirteen dominant fishes were used for the estimation of TP, eight in the Pacific and five in the Caribbean. Mean TP of the communities was similar but with significantly larger variations in the Caribbean than in the Pacific. Similarly, the TA was larger for the Caribbean fish assemblage than for the Pacific. Both results indicate that trophic modes in the Caribbean fish assemblages are more varied than in the Pacific. With some exceptions, FishBase TP estimates correlated positively with TP stable isotope estimates. Our results suggest that TP and TA are good proxies of mangrove fish communities’ trophic modes and that these metrics may vary depending on mangrove environmental settings.
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Affiliations: Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Fahrenheitstr. 6, 28359 Bremen, Germany

Appeared or available online: September 24, 2019

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