Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 117–127 | Cite as

Ontogenetic patterns in resource use dynamics of bonefish (Albula vulpes) in the Bahamas

  • Karen J. MurchieEmail author
  • Christopher R. Haak
  • Michael Power
  • Oliver N. Shipley
  • Andy J. Danylchuk
  • Steven J. Cooke


We used stable isotope analysis to examine ontogenetic patterns in the resource use dynamics of bonefish (Albula vulpes) collected from two locations (Banks and Atlantic) within the coastal waters of Eleuthera, The Bahamas. A marked shift in δ13C signatures between leptocephali and juveniles reflected a rapid change in resource use, likely from pelagic to alternate neritic sources of primary production. Ontogenetic shifts in habitat use were observed across bonefish from both sides of Eleuthera, but direction of the isotopic shifts varied. Bonefish from the Atlantic side demonstrated an enrichment in 13C with size, whereas the opposite pattern was observed for individuals captured from the Banks. Differences are likely to be explained by the variability of primary production sources, which dominate each side of the island (i.e., more reliance on seagrass with ontogeny on the Atlantic side, versus a shift to macroalgal-dominated foodwebs with growth on the Banks side). Enrichment in 15N with body size was observed for both locations and reflects the ability to utilize a broader range of prey items with increasing gape size. Trophic diversity (inferred through nitrogen range), however, was lower on the Banks side, suggesting that reduced prey diversity may limit the increase in dietary shifts that gape size increases typically allow. A significant positive relationship between δ13C and whole-body energy density (MJ kg-1) in adults on the Banks side was observed. Adult bonefish that forage in seagrasses likely benefit from higher energy densities from selected prey items, and may explain this result. Data from this study reinforces the importance of a diversity of habitats in supporting bonefish throughout ontogeny.


Bonefish Albula vulpes Stable isotope analysis Ontogenetic shifts 



We would like to thank staff and volunteers at the Cape Eleuthera Institute and The Island School for logistical support and assistance with field work. Sample collection was supported by a grant from Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation. Additional financial support was provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Research Fund, Carleton University, the Cape Eleuthera Foundation, and the University of Illinois. K.J.M. was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council CGSD fellowship. Sample analysis was supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant to M.P., and a grant from the University of The Bahamas (formerly College of The Bahamas) to K.J.M. We also thank The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources for their support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen J. Murchie
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher R. Haak
    • 2
  • Michael Power
    • 3
  • Oliver N. Shipley
    • 4
  • Andy J. Danylchuk
    • 2
  • Steven J. Cooke
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and ResearchChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  4. 4.School of Marine and Atmospheric SciencesStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  5. 5.Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  6. 6.Institute of Environmental ScienceCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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