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Isotopic niche reflects stress-induced variability in physiological status.


ABSTRACT: The isotopic niche has become an established concept in trophic ecology. However, the assumptions behind this approach have rarely been evaluated. Evidence is accumulating that physiological stress can affect both magnitude and inter-individual variability of the isotopic signature in consumers via alterations in metabolic pathways. We hypothesized that stress factors (inadequate nutrition, parasite infestations, and exposure to toxic substances or varying oxygen conditions) might lead to suboptimal physiological performance and altered stable isotope signatures. The latter can be misinterpreted as alterations in isotopic niche. This hypothesis was tested by inducing physiological stress in the deposit-feeding amphipod Monoporeia affinis exposed to either different feeding regimes or contaminated sediments. In the amphipods, we measured body condition indices or reproductive output to assess growth status and ?13C and ?15N values to derive isotope niche metrics. As hypothesized, greater isotopic niche estimates were derived for the stressed animals compared to the control groups. Moreover, the ?15N values were influenced by body size, reproductive status and parasite infestations, while ?13C values were influenced by body size, oxygen conditions and survival. Using regression analysis with isotope composition and growth variables as predictors, we were able to discriminate between the amphipods exposed to nutritionally or chemically stressful conditions and those in the control groups. Thus, interpretation of isotopic niche can be confounded by natural or anthropogenic stressors that may induce an apparent change in isotopic niche. These findings stress the importance of including measures of growth and health status when evaluating stable isotope data in food web studies.

SUBMITTER: Karlson AML 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5830748 | BioStudies | 2018-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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