Compound-specific isotope analyses of harp seal teeth: tools for trophic ecology reconstruction

Kershaw, JL, de la Vega, C, Jeffreys, RM ORCID: 0000-0001-6114-2334, Frie, AK, Haug, T, Mahaffey, C ORCID: 0000-0002-4215-7271, Mettam, C, Stenson, G and Smout, S
(2021) Compound-specific isotope analyses of harp seal teeth: tools for trophic ecology reconstruction. MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 678. pp. 211-225.

[thumbnail of Kershaw et al. Clean Manuscript.pdf] Text
Kershaw et al. Clean Manuscript.pdf - Author Accepted Manuscript

Download (1MB) | Preview


<jats:p>As sentinels of ecosystem health, high trophic level predators integrate information through all levels of the food web. Their tissues can be used to investigate spatiotemporal variability in foraging behaviour, and with the appropriate analytical methods and tools, archived samples can be used to reconstruct past trophic interactions. Harp seal <jats:italic>Pagophilus groenlandicus</jats:italic> teeth collected in the 1990s from the Northwest Atlantic were analysed for bulk stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes (δ<jats:sup>13</jats:sup>C<jats:sub>bulk</jats:sub> and δ<jats:sup>15</jats:sup>N<jats:sub>bulk</jats:sub>), and compound-specific stable nitrogen isotopes of amino acids (δ<jats:sup>15</jats:sup>N<jats:sub>AA</jats:sub>) for the first time. We developed a fine-scale, annual growth layer group (GLG) dentine sub-sampling method corresponding to the second and third year of life. In accordance with previous diet studies, while there was individual variability in δ<jats:sup>15</jats:sup>N<jats:sub>bulk</jats:sub>, δ<jats:sup>13</jats:sup>C<jats:sub>bulk</jats:sub> and δ<jats:sup>15</jats:sup>N<jats:sub>AA</jats:sub> measurements, we did not detect significant differences in isotopic niche widths between males and females, or between GLGs. Relative trophic position was calculated as the baseline-corrected δ<jats:sup>15</jats:sup>N<jats:sub>AA</jats:sub> values using trophic (glutamic acid) and source (phenylalanine and glycine) amino acids. Variability was measured between individuals in their relative trophic position, but within-individual variability was low, suggesting that they fed at the same trophic level over these 2 yr of life. These novel δ<jats:sup>15</jats:sup>N<jats:sub>AA</jats:sub> data may therefore suggest individual, specialist harp seal foraging behaviour in sub-adults. Our findings show that compound-specific stable isotope signatures of archived, inert predator tissues can be used as tools for the retrospective reconstruction of trophic interactions on broad spatiotemporal scales.</jats:p>

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Phocid seals, Foraging specialisation, Isotopic niche, Trophic position, Diet, Dentine, Inert tissues
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Engineering > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2021 10:33
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:23
DOI: 10.3354/meps13867
Related URLs: