Does water type influence diet composition in Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis)? A case study comparing black and clearwater rivers

  • Luciana Carvalho CremaEmail author
  • Vera Maria Ferreira da Silva
  • Silvina Botta
  • Susan Trumbore
  • Maria Teresa Fernandez Piedade
Primary Research Paper


We assessed the feeding habits of the Amazonian manatee inhabiting blackwater (Negro River) and clearwater (Tapajós River) igapós (floodplains) using δ13C and δ15N of dentin and bone collagen from different ontogenetic classes (nursing calves, juveniles, and adults). Within an individual, the dentine δ13C and δ15N values did not vary with tooth position. Bones were more depleted in 13C and 15N compared to teeth, and the δ13C and δ15N in bone differed among classes. Food sources had δ13C values typical of algae, plants of C3 or C4 photosynthetic pathways. Mixing models showed that lactating females (inferred by isotopic values from nursing calves) had higher proportional consumption of C4 plants, while, for other adults, C3 plants were more frequent in the diet of manatees from both rivers. Juveniles had a mixed diet of C3 pants and C4 plants. We hypothesize the C4 plants signal of calves results from female movements to the floodplains of nearby whitewater rivers (várzeas), where C4 plants are abundant. Individuals from Tapajós may be more resident, as C3 plants and C4 plants are available during the flood pulse. Results demonstrate that manatee diets vary with ontogenetic classes and water typology. Preservation of habitats (igapó/várzea) is therefore required for the survival of Amazonian manatees.


Aquatic mammal Bayesian mixing models δ13C and δ15Ontogenetic variation Stable isotope ratios Trophic ecology 



We thank the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade for project funding, and for granting research permits. We are deeply grateful to the Isolab from Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, especially Dr. Heiko Moossen and Heike Geilmann. Moreover, we thank the Laboratório de Mamíferos Aquáticos from Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, especially MSc Gisele Valdevino; the Centro Nacional Pesquisa e Conservação de Mamíferos Aquáticos; and the Zoológico da Faculdade de Amazônia—Santarém, especialy Jairo Moura and Sidicley Matos. We thank also all people from estudied protected areas, residents and managers. We are grateful to Dr. Ulrich Struk and Marianne Grønholdt Falk, from Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, for the reception and advices. We also thank Dr. Cristiano Albuquerque, Dr. Rodrigo Amaral, Dra. Joana D’Arc de Paula, Dr. Charles Clement, and Dr. Eduardo Rios-Villamizar who reviewed an earlier version of this paper. This article is part of LCC’s Ph.D. thesis under the supervision of MTFP and VMFS. We are grateful for all suggestions given by the reviewer and editor of Hydrobiologia. This research received additional financial support from the Long Term Research Project of the Grupo Ecologia Monitoramento e Uso Sustentável de Áreas Úmidas (PELD-MAUA), Projeto Adaptações da Biota Aquática Amazônica (ADAPTA), and from the Associação Amigos do Peixe-boi and Projeto Petrobras Ambiental.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Programa de Pós-graduação em Biologia de água Doce e Pesca Interior, Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da BiodiversidadeCentro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação da Biodiversidade AmazônicaManausBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Coordenação de Pesquisas em Biologia Aquática, Laboratório de Mamíferos AquáticosManausBrazil
  3. 3.Laboratório de Ecologia e Conservação da Megafauna Marinha, Instituto de OceanografiaUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande – FURGRio GrandeBrazil
  4. 4.Max Planck Institute for BiogeochemistryJenaGermany
  5. 5.Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Coordenação de Pesquisas em Biologia Aquática; Grupo EcologiaMonitoramento e Uso Sustentável de Áreas ÚmidasManausBrazil

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