MEPS 158:249-256 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps158249

Determination of migratory dynamics of the sooty shearwater in the Pacific using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis

Hiroshi Minami*, Haruo Ogi

Research Institute of North Pacific Fisheries, Faculty of Fisheries, Hokkaido University, 3-1-1 Minatocho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 041, Japan
*Present address: Division of Environmental Chemistry, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305, Japan. E-mail:

Migratory dynamics and dietary change of sooty shearwaters Puffinus griseus sampled in the North Pacific from May to September in 1990 and 1991 were investigated using the method of δ13C and δ15N analyses. δ13C and δ15N values of muscle tissues of shearwaters ranged from -21.9 to -15.1o/oo and from 8.1 to 16.6o/oo, respectively. The δ15N values of immature shearwaters collected east of longitude 170° W differed from those west of this longitude. In the northwestern Pacific, δ13C and δ15N of both mature and immature birds were lowest in May (both mature and immature: δ13C -20.7 ± 0.9o/oo, δ15N 8.8 ± 1.0o/oo; mean ± SD) and then gradually increased until early summer. In contrast, no seasonal variations in δ13C and δ15N of mature birds were observed in the northeastern Pacific and δ13C and δ15N of immature birds in the northeastern area were the highest in May (δ13C -15.9 ± 0.5o/oo, δ15N 15.9 ± 0.8o/oo; mean ± SD), and then gradually declined. We attribute these isotopic trends primarily to differences in the isotopic signatures of food-web components due to oceanographic factors, and the influence of sooty shearwater migrations. Low or high δ13C and δ15N values of immature and mature shearwaters in the western and eastern North Pacific in May may be caused by the transient effects of food consumed in the Southern Hemisphere before or during the northward migration. In particular, the high δ15N of the immature birds in the northeastern area seems to be caused by feeding on 15N rich diets in the eastern tropical Pacific, off Peru and California, during the northward migration, where occurrence of denitrification with a high nitrogen isotope fractionation factor of up to 1.04 is well known. The pattern of the migratory behaviour of sooty shearwaters in the Pacific Ocean was successfully clarified by their isotopic signature.


Puffinus griseus · Stable isotope · Carbon 13 · Nitrogen 15 · Migration


Full text in pdf format