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Intrapopulation variation in carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios in the earthworm Aporrectodea longa

The natural abundance variations in carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios in a population of the earthworm Aporrectodea longa, a species known to feed on both soil and plant litter, is reported in this paper. Worms were collected from a small land area of an old white clover field and body tissue and mucus were analyzed separately. The range of isotopic values was small, but patterns of variation were not random. Tissue carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios were significantly higher in adult than in juvenile A. longa and tissue nitrogen isotope ratios tended to increase with increasing biomass of individuals. Further, carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios were positively correlated in both tissue and mucus. Possible causes of the observed patterns, including physiological effects, body composition and assimilation of C and N from different plant, soil and microbial sources are discussed. It is concluded that the causes of natural variability in isotopic composition must be understood and validated experimentally before natural abundance stable isotope methods can be used for the analysis of trophic relations among detritivorous soil invertebrates.

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Correspondence to Olaf Schmidt.

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Schmidt, O. Intrapopulation variation in carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios in the earthworm Aporrectodea longa. Ecol Res 14, 317–328 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1703.1999.00310.x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1703.1999.00310.x

Key words

  • Aporrectodea longa
  • diet
  • Lumbricidae
  • natural abundance
  • stable isotopes