Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 37–52 | Cite as

Carbon and nitrogen discrimination factors for elasmobranch soft tissues based on a long-term controlled feeding study

  • Sora Lee Kim
  • Dave R. Casper
  • Felipe Galván-Magaña
  • Ruth Ochoa-Díaz
  • Sandra Berenice Hernández-Aguilar
  • Paul L. Koch


The foraging ecology of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays) is difficult to study because species have spatially and temporally diverse diets. Many diet and habitat preference studies for mammals, birds, and teleosts use stable isotope analysis, but interpretations are limited for elasmobranch studies because taxon-specific isotope discrimination factors from a controlled experiment are unavailable. Trophic discrimination factors for plasma, red blood cells, and muscle were determined from an experiment with leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) fed a constant diet of squid over 1000 days. The δ13C values for shark tissues at equilibrium with the squid diet did not vary significantly among individuals, but plasma and red blood cell δ15N values differed significantly among individuals and sampling day. Individual variation of muscle δ15N averages was observed and likely related to growth. Overall, carbon and nitrogen discrimination factors corresponded to previous studies featuring high-protein diets and carnivorous taxa. The muscle-to-diet discrimination factors from the controlled feeding study were applied to blue sharks (Prionace glauca) and smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna zygaena) caught offshore from Baja California, Mexico. This case study demonstrates the potential of stable isotope analysis to illuminate differences in foraging patterns between elasmobranch species.


Diet Stable isotope analysis Blue shark Smooth hammerhead shark Baja California Mexico 

Supplementary material

10641_2011_9919_MOESM1_ESM.docx (49 kb)
Supplemental Material AGrowth rates for each individual throughout experiment. Individual symbols correspond to those used in Figure 1. Growth rates remain steady for two individuals, but the individual represented by “•” had low hematocrit values and a reduced growth rate. (DOCX 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sora Lee Kim
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dave R. Casper
    • 3
  • Felipe Galván-Magaña
    • 4
  • Ruth Ochoa-Díaz
    • 4
  • Sandra Berenice Hernández-Aguilar
    • 4
  • Paul L. Koch
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeophysicsUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesUniversity of California, Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA
  3. 3.Long Marine LaboratoryUniversity of California, Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA
  4. 4.Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas-IPNLa PazMexico

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