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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 624:89-102 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13002

Amino acid δ13C and δ15N from sclerotized beaks: a new tool to investigate the foraging ecology of cephalopods, including giant and colossal squids

Yves Cherel1,*, Paco Bustamante2, Pierre Richard2

1Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé (CEBC), UMR 7372 du CNRS-La Rochelle Université, 79360 Villiers-en-Bois, France
2Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés (LIENSs), UMR 7266 du CNRS- La Rochelle Université, 2 rue Olympe de Gouges, 17000 La Rochelle, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Combining the use of predators as biological samplers together with measurements of the stable isotopic ratios (δ13CBulk and δ15NBulk) of their sclerotized beaks help investigate foraging ecology of poorly known oceanic cephalopods. However, high chitin content (an amino-sugar macromolecule) lowers beak δ15NBulk values, thus precluding direct isotopic comparison with other tissues and organisms. To overcome the chitin effect, compound-specific isotopic analysis of amino acids (CSIA-AA) was performed on squid beaks. The method was applied on beaks and muscle, and the resulting δ13CAA and δ15NAA values compared between tissues. The usefulness of CSIA was tested by defining the habitat and trophic position (TPCSIA) of squids using their δ13CAA and δ15NAA values. Beak δ13CAA values were reliably measured on 12 AA that included 5 essential and 7 non-essential AA, and δ15NAA values were quantified on at least 7 AA that included 2 source and 4 trophic AA. Importantly, δsup>13CAA and δ15NAA varied little between muscle and lower and upper beaks, and TPCSIA estimates were identical regardless of the tissue considered. Tissue δ13CAA values of both essential and non-essential AA reflected the latitudinal baseline δ13C gradient that occurs in the Southern Indian Ocean, while beak δ15NAA from source and trophic AA allowed the disentangling of the baseline effect from the trophic effect, and thus better calculations of squid TP estimates than from δ15NBulk values. Beak δ13CAA and δ15NAA defined isotopic niches of colossal and giant squids, the 2 largest living invertebrates. In subantarctic waters, they segregate by having species-specific foraging habitats (using δ13CGly or δ15NPhe) and TPCSIA (using δ15NGlx and δ15NPhe). TPCSIA is higher in colossal (4.7) than giant (4.3) squids, and both values compare well with those of myctophid-eaters, suggesting very large squids prey primarily upon small zooplanktivorous fishes. As expected, CSIA-AA overcomes the chitin effect on beaks and it is a powerful tool to investigate trophic interactions of cephalopods. The method has a great potential with arthropods, because chitin is a main component of their exoskeleton but the deleterious effect of chitin is overlooked in isotopic studies focusing on crustaceans and insects.


KEY WORDS: Arthropod · Carbon · Chitin · CSIA · Habitat · Nitrogen · Stable isotope · Trophic position


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Cite this article as: Cherel Y, Bustamante P, Richard P (2019) Amino acid δ13C and δ15N from sclerotized beaks: a new tool to investigate the foraging ecology of cephalopods, including giant and colossal squids. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 624:89-102. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13002

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