Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 9, pp 2141–2146 | Cite as

Preservation methods alter stable isotope values in gelatinous zooplankton: implications for interpreting trophic ecology

  • Nicholas E. C. FlemingEmail author
  • Jonathan D. R. Houghton
  • Caroline L. Magill
  • Chris Harrod


Jellyfish are increasingly topical within studies of marine food webs. Stable isotope analysis represents a valuable technique to unravel the complex trophic role of these long-overlooked species. In other taxa, sample preservation has been shown to alter the isotopic values of species under consideration, potentially leading to misinterpretation of trophic ecology. To identify potential preservation effects in jellyfish, we collected Aurelia aurita from Strangford Lough (54o22′44.73″N, 5o32′53.44″W) during May 2009 and processed them using three different methods prior to isotopic analysis (unpreserved, frozen and preserved in ethanol). A distinct preservation effect was found on δ15N values: furthermore, preservation also influenced the positive allometric relationship between individual size and δ15N values. Conversely, δ13C values remained consistent between the three preservation methods, conflicting with previous findings for other invertebrate, fish and mammalian species. These findings have implications for incorporation of jellyfish into marine food webs and remote sampling regimes where preservation of samples is unavoidable.


Stable Isotope Analysis Preservation Method Trophic Ecology Preserve Sample Gelatinous Zooplankton 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by a Department of Education and Learning (DEL) PhD studentship awarded to NECF by the Northern Ireland Assembly. We are grateful to Phillip Johnston from Queen’s University, Belfast Marine Laboratory (QUML) for boat support and sample collection, and Michelle Thompson from the 14CHRONO centre, School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s University, Belfast for SIA processing. Thanks also go to Donal Griffin and Tony Lilley for help with sample processing.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas E. C. Fleming
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jonathan D. R. Houghton
    • 1
    • 2
  • Caroline L. Magill
    • 1
  • Chris Harrod
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences, Medical Biology CentreQueen’s University, BelfastBelfastUK
  2. 2.Queen’s University Marine LaboratoryPortaferry, Co. DownUK

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