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Ontogenic changes in habitat and trophic ecology in the Antarctic squid Kondakovia longimana derived from isotopic analysis on beaks

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The life histories of cephalopods are still not well described. Stable isotopic analysis of cephalopod beaks is an effective method to study the habitat and trophic ecology of this group of organisms. As beaks grow continuously throughout squid’s life without replacement, we hypothesised that analysing different sections along the beak will provide information on the ontogenetic shifts during the individual’s lifetime. Here we used the Southern Ocean squid Kondakovia longimana as a model species to test the reliability of this method along the beaks of Antarctic species. Growing patterns show that beaks grow throughout the squid lifetime by a continuous deposition of material. This new material can influence the results of the stable isotopic analysis. δ13C and δ15N values (from − 26.3 to − 20.6‰ and from + 3.2 to + 8.2‰, respectively) from different beak regions indicated that K. longimana inhabits regions spanning a wide latitudinal range, and the trophic level at which it feeds increases throughout its lifetime. Stable isotopic analysis of different sections of the cephalopod beak is a reliable technique to study habitat and trophic ecology throughout Antarctic squid’s lifetime. Stable isotopic results showed an increase in δ15N values from the tip of the rostrum to the end of the hood and crest, in the upper beak, and to the free corner of lateral wall and wing in the lower beak. Our results also suggested that the upper beak is the best beak to study ontogenetic shifts, mainly in initial stages of the cephalopods’ life, presenting lower values of δ15N than the lower beak.

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This work has been supported by the British Antarctic Survey, providing laboratory space and equipment for shore-based sample processing at South Georgia. It also has the support of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the research programs CEPH, SCAR AnT-ERA, SCAR EGBAMM, PROPOLAR and ICED. JX is supported by the Investigator FCT program (IF/00616/2013) and FRC by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT—Portugal) and the European Social Fund (POPH, EU) through a post-doc grant (SFRH/BPD/95372/2013). We would also like to thank the reviewers of the manuscript Dr. Vecchioni and Dr. Lipínski and to the editor of the journal Dr. Dieter Piepenburg for the useful comments to improve the quality of the work. Further, we want to thank our friend Naomi Treble for the revision of the English language.


The author José C. Xavier is supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (PT) through the grant (IF/00616/2013). Filipe R. Ceia is supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (PT) and European Social Fund (POPH, EU) through the grant (SFRH/BPD/95372/2013). The scientific work was supported by British Antarctic Survey, Government of South Georgia, Government of South Sandwich Islands and by several research programs, i.e. CEPH, SCAR AnT-ERA, SCAR EGBAMM, PROPOLAR and ICED.

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Correspondence to José P. Queirós.

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Research involving animals

This research uses beaks from squid. These beaks were obtained from the stomachs of fish captured in a Fishing Vessel for human consumption. No harm was made to any animal while performing this research.

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Queirós, J.P., Cherel, Y., Ceia, F.R. et al. Ontogenic changes in habitat and trophic ecology in the Antarctic squid Kondakovia longimana derived from isotopic analysis on beaks. Polar Biol 41, 2409–2421 (2018).

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