, Volume 156, Issue 6, pp 1241-1253
Date: 12 Mar 2009

Stable isotopic evidence for trophic groupings and bio-regionalization of predators and their prey in oceanic waters off eastern Australia

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Abstract

Muscle tissue was collected for stable isotope analysis (SIA) from the main fish predators and their fish and cephalopod prey from oceanic waters off eastern Australia between 2004 and 2006. SIA of δ15N and δ13C revealed that the species examined could be divided into three main trophic groups. A “top predator” group consisted mainly of large billfish (Xiphias gladius and Tetrapturus audax), yellowfin (Thunnus albacares), bigeye (T. obesus) and southern bluefin (T. maccoyii) tunas and sharks; with mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) the highest. Below this tier was a second group composed of mid-trophic level fishes including albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga), lancet fish (Alepisaurus ferox), mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippuris) and ommastrephid squid. Underlying both groups was a grouping of small fishes including myctophids, small scombrids and nomeids as well as surface fishes including macrorhamphosids. These groupings were based largely on mean animal size which showed a positive linear relation to δ15N (r 2 = 0.58). Some species showed significant ontogenetic variation in either δ15N (swordfish, lancet fish, yellowfin and albacore tuna) or δ13C (mako shark). We also noted a consistent latitudinal change in δ15N and δ13C at ~28°S for the top predator species, particularly albacore and yellowfin tuna. The differences were consistent with a change from oligotrophic Coral Sea to nutrient rich Tasman Sea waters. These differences suggest that predatory fishes may have extended residence time in distinct regions off eastern Australia.

Communicated by U. Sommer.