Tracing the diet of the monitor lizard Varanus mabitang by stable isotope analyses (δ15N, δ13C)
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In this study, we used analyses of stable isotopes of nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) to determine the trophic ecology of the monitor lizard Varanus mabitang. Stable isotopes from claws, gut contents, and soft tissues were measured from the type specimen. Samples from Varanus olivaceus, Varanus prasinus, Varanus salvator, the herbivorous agamid lizard Hydrosaurus pustulatus, and some plant matter were included for comparison. Our data show a rapid decrease in δ13C (about10‰) from food plants towards gut contents and soft tissues of herbivorous species. For the varanids, we found a significant linear correlation of decreasing δ13C and increasing δ15N from herbivorous towards carnivorous species. In terms of trophic isotope ecology, the type specimen of V. mabitang is a strict herbivore. Thus it differs significantly in its isotopic composition from the morphologically next closest related species V. olivaceus. The most highly carnivorous species is V. salvator, while δ15N values for V. prasinus and V. olivaceus are intermediate. Claws provide very valuable samples for such measurements, because they can be sampled from living animals without harm. Additionally, their range of variability is relatively small in comparison with measurements from soft tissues.
KeywordsSoft Tissue Isotopic Composition Stable Isotope Isotope Analysis Food Plant
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