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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 626:161-175 (2019)  -  DOI:

Resource utilization of puffer fish in a subtropical bay as revealed by stable isotope analysis and food web modeling

Mathilde Lemoine1,2, Tom Moens2, Anna-Maria Vafeiadou2, Luis Artur Valões Bezerra3,4, Paulo Lana1,*

1Laboratório de Bentos, Centro de Estudos do Mar, Universidade Federal do Paraná, 83255-000 Pontal do Paraná, Paraná, Brazil
2Ghent University, Biology Department, Marine Biology Lab, Krijgslaan 281/S8, 9000 Gent, Belgium
3Laboratório de Análise e Síntese em Biodiversidade (LASB), Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e Conservação (PPGEco), Universidade Federal do Paraná, Centro Politécnico, 81531-980, Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil
4Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Hydrobiology, Čské Budějovice, Czech Republic
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Estuaries often comprise a habitat mosaic, the connectivity of which depends in part on mobile organisms that move in between habitats for feeding and breeding. We assessed resource utilization by 2 co-existing puffer fish species, Sphoeroides testudineus and Sphoeroides greeleyi, in mangroves, saltmarshes and shallow subtidal channels of a subtropical bay. We hypothesized that puffer fish migrate into mangroves mainly to feed and that the coexistence of the 2 species may be explained by differences in resource utilization and/or by a differential preference for different foraging grounds. We combined a stable isotope approach with an Ecopath model that contrasted detritus-driven and herbivory-driven foodweb scenarios. The most parsimonious foodweb scenario involved the feeding of puffer fish on benthic invertebrates associated with Spartina marshes. This emphasizes the importance of saltmarshes as feeding grounds for both puffer fish species, independently of where they were sampled. Small differences in isotopic signatures between S. greeleyi and S. testudineus indicated major resource overlap, but also some degree of food partitioning probably through the selection of differently sized prey. The smaller S. greeleyi consistently had a slightly higher trophic level than the larger S. testudineus. S. testudineus had larger isotopic niche sizes as a consequence of greater inter-individual variation in resource use. Our results emphasize the importance of considering multiple habitats and foodweb scenarios when investigating resource use and species interactions in estuarine ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Sphoeroides testudineus · Sphoeroides greeleyi · Isotopic analysis · Diet · Mangrove · Saltmarsh · Subtropical bay · Habitat connectivity

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Cite this article as: Lemoine M, Moens T, Vafeiadou AM, Bezerra LAV, Lana P (2019) Resource utilization of puffer fish in a subtropical bay as revealed by stable isotope analysis and food web modeling. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 626:161-175.

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