Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 98, Issue 3, pp 925–932 | Cite as

Fish fins and scales as non-lethally sampled tissues for stable isotope analysis in five fish species of north – eastern Spain

  • Oriol Cano-RocabayeraEmail author
  • Alberto Maceda-Veiga
  • Adolfo de Sostoa


White muscle has been traditionally used in determining δ 13C and δ 15N signatures in fish but ethics and the current conservation status of many species mean the application of non-lethal sampling procedures is mandatory. In this study we test whether fins and scales can be used as non-lethal alternatives of muscle tissue for stable isotope analysis by comparing their δ 13C and δ 15N signatures, in two native (Barbus haasi, Squalius laietanus) and three introduced fish species (Rutilus rutilus, Lepomis gibbosus and Alburnus alburnus), collected in rivers from north-eastern Spain. Our results showed fins and scales were generally enriched in 13C and depleted in 15 N compared to muscle, and that both tissues were generally a moderate predictor of the isotopic composition of muscle for most species with the exception of Ebro chub (R 2 = 0.59–0.97). This study highlights the importance of determining the isotopic relationship between lethal and non-lethally sampled tissues before making straightforward equivalences, and also pinpoints the need for a more comprehensive understanding of how isotopic discrimination occurs in fins, scales and muscle tissues.


δ13δ15fish muscle non-lethal sampling correction factors 



This work was supported by FURIMED-2, the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) and the Sabadell Town Council (“Parc Fluvial del Ripoll”). The study was authorized by the Autonomous Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya) and fish were euthanized following the standard protocol established by the animal welfare service at the University of Barcelona. In addition, AMV and ADS performed a training course on the use of animals in research provided by the University of Barcelona. We thank M. Monroy, A. Canyelles and C. Cardoso for field work and P. Rubio for her assistance in stable isotope analyses at the “Serveis Cientifico-Tècnics” at the University of Barcelona, and M. Stremska for English revision. AMV was funded by a Marie Curie Fellow (EC-Funded ‘Para-Tox’ project n° 327941).


  1. Benjamini Y, Hochberg Y (1995) Controlling the false discovery rate – a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. J Roy Stat Soc 57:289–300. doi: 10.2307/2346101 Google Scholar
  2. Blanco A, Deudero S, Box A (2009) Muscle and scale isotopic offset of three fish species in the Mediterranean Sea: Dentex dentex, Argyrosomus regius and Xyrichtys novacula. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 23:2321–2328. doi: 10.1002/rcm.4154 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. DeNiro MJ, Epstein S (1977) Mechanism of carbon isotope fractionation associated with lipid synthesis. Science 197:261–263. doi: 10.1126/science.327543 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. R Development Core Team (2012) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing: Vienna, Austria.
  5. Fincel MJ, VanDeHey JA, Chipps SR (2012) Non-lethal sampling of walleye for stable isotope analysis: a comparison of three tissues. Fish Manag Ecol 19:283–292. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2400.2011.00830.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. García LV (2004) Escaping the Bonferroni iron claw in ecological studies. Oikos 105:657–663. doi: 10.1111/j.0030-1299.2004.13046.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Grey J, Graham CT, Britton JR, Harrod C (2009) Stable isotope analysis of archived roach (Rutilus rutilus) scales for retrospective study of shallow lake responses to nutrient reduction. Freshw Biol 54:1663–1670. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2009.02215.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hanisch JR, Tonn WM, Paszkowski CA, Scrimgeour GJ (2010) δ 13C and δ 15N signatures in muscle and fin tissues: nonlethal sampling methods for stable isotope analysis of salmonids. N Am J Fish Manag 30:1–11. doi: 10.1577/M09-048.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hare PE, Fogel ML, Stafford TW, Mitchell AD, Hoering TC (1991) The isotopic composition of carbon and nitrogen in individual amino acids isolated from modern and fossil proteins. J Archaeol Sci 18:277–291. doi: 10.1016/0305-4403(91)90066-X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hobson KA, Clark RG (1992) Assessing avian diets using stable isotopes II: factors influencing diet-tissue fractionation. Condor 94:189–197. doi: 10.2307/1368808 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Inamura O, Zhang J, Minagawa M (2012) δ 13C and δ 15N values in scales of Micropterus salmoides largemouth bass as a freshwater environmental indicator. Rapid commun mass sp 26:17–24. doi: 10.1002/rcm.5288 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jardine TD, Gray MA, McWilliam SM, Cunjak RA (2005) Stable isotope variability in tissues of temperate stream fishes. Trans Am Fish Soc 134:1103–1110. doi: 10.1577/T04-124.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kelly MH, Hagar WG, Jardine TD, Cunjak RA (2006) Nonlethal sampling of sunfish and slimy sculpin for stable isotope analysis: how scale and fin tissue compare with muscle tissue. N Am J Fish Manag 26:921–925. doi: 10.1577/M05-084.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Legendre, P. (1998). Model II Regression User’s Guide, R edition. R Vignette. Accessed 30 August 2013
  15. Maceda-Veiga A (2013) Towards the conservation of freshwater fish: Iberian Rivers as an example of threats and management practices. Rev Fish Biol Fish 23:1–22. doi: 10.1007/s11160-012-9275-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Metcalf SJ, Swearer SE (2005) Non-destructive ageing in Notolabrus tetricus using dorsal spines with an emphasis on the benefits for protected, endangered and fished species. J Fish Biol 66:1740–1747. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-1112.2005.00704.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pinnegar JK, Polunin NVC (1999) Differential fractionation of δ 13C and δ 15N among fish tissues: implications for the study of trophic interactions. Funct Ecol 13:225–231. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2435.1999.00301.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Post DM (2002) Using stable isotopes to estimate trophic position: Models, methods, and assumptions. Ecology 83:703-718. doi:  10.1890/0012-9658(2002)083[0703:USITET]2.0.CO;2
  19. Post DM, Layman CA, Arrington DA, Takimoto G, Quattrochi J, Montaña CG (2007) Getting to the fat of the matter: models, methods and assumptions for dealing with lipids in stable isotope analyses. Oecologia 152:179–189. doi: 10.1007/s00442-006-0630-x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Satterfield FR, Finney BP (2002) Stable isotope analysis of Pacific salmon: insight into trophic status and oceanographic conditions over the last 30 years. Prog Oceanogr 53:231–246. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6611(02)00032-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sinnatamby RN, Dempson JB, Power M (2008) A comparison of muscle- and scale-derived δ 13C and δ 15N across three life-history stages of Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar. Rapid commun mass sp 22:2773–2778. doi: 10.1002/rcm.3674 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tronquart NH, Mazeas L, Reuilly‐Manenti L, Zahm A, Belliard J (2012) Fish fins as non‐lethal surrogates for muscle tissues in freshwater food web studies using stable isotopes. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 26:1603–1608. doi: 10.1002/rcm.6265 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Vander Zanden MJ, Cabana G, Rasmussen JB (1997) Comparing trophic position of freshwater fish calculated using stable nitrogen isotope ratios (δ 15N) and literature dietary data. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 54:1142–1158. doi: 10.1139/f97-016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Vander Zanden MJ, Shuter BJ, Lester N, Rasmussen JB (1999) Patterns of food chain length in lakes: a stable isotope study. Am Nat 154:406–416. doi: 10.1086/303250 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ventura M, Jeppesen E (2010) Evaluating the need for acid treatment prior to δ 13C and δ 15N analysis of freshwater fish scales: effects of varying scale mineral content, lake productivity and CO2 concentration. Hydrobiologia 644:245–259. doi: 10.1007/s10750-010-0121-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Vollaire Y, Banas D, Thomas M, Roche H (2007) Stable isotope variability in tissues of the Eurasian perch Perca fluviatilis. Comp Biochem Physiol 148:504–509. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2007.06.419 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Willis TJ, Sweeting CJ, Bury SJ, Handley SJ, Brown JC, Freeman DJ, Cairney DG, Page MJ (2013) Matching and mismatching stable isotope (δ 13C and δ 15N) ratios in fin and muscle tissue among fish species: a critical review. Mar Biol 160:1633–1644. doi: 10.1007/s00227-013-2216-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oriol Cano-Rocabayera
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alberto Maceda-Veiga
    • 1
    • 2
  • Adolfo de Sostoa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal Biology & Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio), Faculty of BiologyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.School of BiosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

Personalised recommendations