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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 361:213-225 (2008)  -  DOI:

Feeding ecology of red snapper Lutjanus campechanus in the northern Gulf of Mexico

R. J. David Wells1,2,*, James H. Cowan Jr.1, Brian Fry1

1Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA
2Present address: Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University, 5007 Avenue U, Galveston, Texas 77553, USA

ABSTRACT: We used stable isotopes and stomach content analyses to describe diet of red snapper Lutjanus campechanus in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Approximately 1000 fish were collected over 2 yr to test possible effects of ontogeny, habitat, and a non-trawl artificial reef permit area on red snapper diets. Stable isotopes of carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N), and sulfur (δ34S) were measured in both red snapper and potential primary producers. Ontogenetic shifts in diet occurred with increasing red snapper size-at-age, resulting in higher δ13C and nitrogen δ15N and lower δ34S in larger fish. Stomach content results supported ontogenetic shifts in diet by showing a change in diet from zooplankton, mysid shrimp, and squid for juvenile red snapper (ages 0 to 1) to diets dominated by benthic crustaceans and fishes for adults (ages 2+). Habitat-specific differences in isotopes and stomach contents of similarly sized fish were identified; however, feeding differences appeared to reflect ontogeny more than habitat type. In addition, seasonal differences, both in δ13C and in prey identified from stomach contents, were detected, but were minimal. Red snapper from areas outside a single non-trawl reef permit area had higher δ15N and lower δ34S values than for conspecifics collected inside the non-trawl reef permit area. This study highlights the use of stable isotopes in detecting red snapper feeding differences inside and outside of an artificial reef permit area in the northern GOM, but additional studies are needed to verify if similar trends are present in other areas.

KEY WORDS: Red snapper · Feeding · Stomach contents · Stable isotopes · Ontogeny · Habitat · Artificial reef permit area

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Cite this article as: Wells RJD, Cowan JH, Jr , Fry B (2008) Feeding ecology of red snapper Lutjanus campechanus in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 361:213-225.

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