Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 92, Issue 4, pp 559–567 | Cite as

Stable isotope profiles in whale shark (Rhincodon typus) suggest segregation and dissimilarities in the diet depending on sex and size

  • Asunción BorrellEmail author
  • Alex Aguilar
  • Manel Gazo
  • R. P. Kumarran
  • Luis Cardona


We investigated the sex- and size-related differences in the diet of whale sharks from the Arabian Sea (north-western Indian Ocean) using carbon and nitrogen stable-isotope analyses in white muscle. The samples were collected during the commercial fishing season between April and May of 2001 in Veraval (Gujarat, India). The overall isotope signature was similar to that of the pelagic-neritic zooplanktivore Ilisha melastoma, which suggests that both species are feeding on similar prey. In whale sharks, a positive relationship was found between δ15N and δ13C. This, together with a significant enrichment of both heavy stable isotopes with total length indicates that the contribution to the diet of small fish and/or larger zooplankton of higher trophic level increases with the movement from offshore areas to coastal areas as they grow. Gender differences in the isotopic ratios were not statistically significant, but small sample size cannot rule out completely the existence of some degree of spatial or dietary segregation between sexes.


Habitat selection Arabian Sea Indian Ocean Whale shark δ13δ15



We acknowledge the Fundació pel Desenvolupament Sostenible (FDS) for providing funds for the sampling fieldwork, to the Serveis Cientifico Tècnics (SCT) of the University of Barcelona for analytical assistance, and to the Vicerectorate of International Relations of the University of Barcelona for travel funding during the elaboration and correction of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Asunción Borrell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alex Aguilar
    • 1
  • Manel Gazo
    • 1
  • R. P. Kumarran
    • 2
  • Luis Cardona
    • 1
  1. 1.IrBio; Institut de Recerca de la Biodiversitat and Department of Animal Biology, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.ChennaiIndia

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