Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 13–21 | Cite as

Dietary histories of herbivorous loricariid catfishes: evidence from δ13C values of otoliths

  • Hirofumi NonogakiEmail author
  • Jay A. Nelson
  • William P. Patterson
Original Paper


The ecology of many Neotropical fishes is difficult or often impossible to study during rainy seasons. Thus, ecological studies of tropical fishes are usually performed on fish captured only during dry seasons. Because otoliths preserve a record of life history, this study evaluated the utility of otolith stable isotope values for the investigation of trophic ecology of Neotropical fishes (specifically herbivorous loricariid catfish) throughout their lives. Because plant dietary materials have δ13C values that are determined by their photosynthetic pathways, metabolism and environmental conditions, different plants may impart different isotope values on fish otoliths that reflect consumption of these plants. The δ13C(otolith) values of xylophagous Panaque nigrolineatus captured in the field were significantly lower than those of algivorous Hypostomus regani from a nearby region. A laboratory experiment wherein Hypostomus sp. had δ13C(otolith) values that reflected the δ13C values of their plant diet and additional evidence indicate that δ13C(otolith) values in loricariid catfish otoliths can record dietary history.


Otolith Loricariidae Panaque Hypostomus δ13Herbivorous 


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We wish to thank Don Stewart for invaluable assistance and discussion. We would also like to thank Stewart and Karin E. Limburg for use of Otolithology lab at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, and Chris Wuester (Department of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan) for reviewing our manuscript. Funded by NSF INT-0086474 to JAN and Towson University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hirofumi Nonogaki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jay A. Nelson
    • 2
  • William P. Patterson
    • 3
  1. 1.Center of Marine BiotechnologyUniversity of Maryland Biotechnology InstituteBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesTowson UniversityTowsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geological Sciences, 114 Science PlaceUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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