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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 428:259-269 (2011)  -  DOI:

Downward trophic shift during breeding migration in the shorebird Calidris mauri (western sandpiper)

Peter G. Beninger1,*, Robert W. Elner2, Michèle Morançais1, Priscilla Decottignies1

1Laboratoire de Biologie Marine, Faculté des Sciences, Université de Nantes, 44240 Nantes Cédex, France
2Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific Wildlife Reseach Centre, Environment Canada, RR 1, 5421 Robertson Road, Delta, V4K 3N2 British Columbia, Canada

ABSTRACT: The recent demonstration of mudflat surficial biofilm feeding by western sandpiper Calidris mauri has provided new insight into the feeding ecology of shorebirds. We assessed feeding modes over the migratory cycle, and specifically whether a downward shift in trophic position occurred during the 2004 northward migration from their overwintering areas to the Arctic breeding grounds. We used stable isotope composition and calculated trophic positions of adult western sandpiper at their northward migratory stopover on Roberts Bank, British Columbia, Canada, in 3 animal compartments with increasing turnover times (stomach contents, liver, and muscle). This allowed the retrospective determination of their major diet source types over time frames encompassing the geographical ranges of their previous migratory stopovers and arrival on the Roberts Bank stopover. Detailed taxonomic and photopigment determinations were also performed on stomach contents and surficial biofilm. The Roberts Bank biofilm showed high taxonomic homogeneity among sampling sites, suggesting a qualitatively consistent food source during western sandpiper stopover. A statistically significant downward shift in mean trophic position (TP) occurred between previous migratory stopovers (TP = 3.0 ± 0.5, mean ± SD) and arrival on the Roberts Bank stopover, where the maximum probability densities showed >70% dietary contribution of benthic diatoms, with a TP = 2.3 ± 0.4, close to the diet of the suspension-feeding bivalves Tapes philippinarum and Mya sp. (TP = 2). Advantages of biofilm over macrofaunal feeding during migration may include decreased handling and search time, as well as greater availability and digestibility of the high-energy carbohydrates needed for flight.

KEY WORDS: Feeding · Migratory stopover · Mudflat biofilm · Microphytobenthos · Intertidal ecosystems · Dietary changes

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Cite this article as: Beninger PG, Elner RW, Morançais M, Decottignies P (2011) Downward trophic shift during breeding migration in the shorebird Calidris mauri (western sandpiper). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 428:259-269.

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