Marine Biology

, 165:101 | Cite as

Spatial and interspecific variation in the food sources of sympatric estuarine nereidid polychaetes: stable isotopic and enzymatic approaches

  • Gen Kanaya
  • Takatoshi Niiyama
  • Aya Tanimura
  • Taeko Kimura
  • Haruhiko Toyohara
  • Hiroaki Tosuji
  • Masanori Sato
Original paper


Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) of sympatric nereidid polychaetes including Hediste diadroma, H. atoka, Tylorrhynchus osawai, and Simplisetia erythraeensis were examined at six stations along the Japanese coast to reveal the trophic niches of nereidid polychaetes in estuarine benthic food webs. The species studied exhibited a large degree of spatial variation in δ13C values (− 25.3 to − 13.7‰) among stations, suggesting site-based differences in nereidid dietary components. The low δ13C values of nereidids suggest that terrestrial plant materials are important components of their diets in river-affected estuarine habitats, which were also shown by a δ13C-based stable isotope mixing model (SIAR). δ13C values of H. diadroma and H. atoka were 0.3–3.1‰ lower than those of the sympatric T. osawai and S. erythraeensis, while no significant difference was found between Hediste species. A biochemical assay revealed cellulase activity in H. diadroma, H. atoka, and T. osawai (S. erythraeensis was not examined), while the apparent molecular size of cellulase differed between the two genera. These observations suggest that some nereidids can directly assimilate terrestrial plant matters using cellulases, although the dietary importance of terrestrial matter varies among genera. Species with the ability to digest cellulose may be better able to colonize river-dominated estuarine habitats, where refractory terrestrial detritus is a major carbon source.



We would like to thank Dr. K. Ito for allowing us to use the mass spectrometer at the Department of Agriculture, Tohoku University. E. Kikuchi, T. Kanaya, R. Kanaya, H. Saito, and H. Sawada are acknowledged for their supports in this study. We acknowledged Dr. H. Doi for allowing us to use isotopic data at St. KT, Dr. M. Matsumasa, and T. Suzuki for their comments on species composition of nereidid polychaetes, and Dr. S. Kawaida for his help in using the stable isotope mixing model in R (SIAR). We are also grateful for the editor Dr. M. Huettel and the referees Dr. U. Hoeger and I. Preciado for their critical comments to the manuscript.


This study was supported partly by KAKENHI (21770013, 17K07538, 17K07580) from JSPS.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study have been followed and all necessary approvals have been obtained.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gen Kanaya
    • 1
    • 2
  • Takatoshi Niiyama
    • 3
  • Aya Tanimura
    • 3
  • Taeko Kimura
    • 4
  • Haruhiko Toyohara
    • 3
  • Hiroaki Tosuji
    • 5
  • Masanori Sato
    • 5
  1. 1.National Institute for Environmental StudiesTsukubaJapan
  2. 2.The Center for Northeast Asian StudiesTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of BioresourcesMie UniversityTsuJapan
  5. 5.Research Field in Science, Science and Engineering AreaKagoshima UniversityKagoshimaJapan

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