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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 699:167-180 (2022)  -  DOI:

Trophic position of dolphins tracks recent changes in the pelagic ecosystem of the Macaronesian region (NE Atlantic)

Antonio Bode1,*, Camilo Saavedra2, Miguel Álvarez-González2, Marina Arregui3,4, Manuel Arbelo3, Antonio Fernández3, Luis Freitas5, Mónica A. Silva6, Rui Prieto6, José M. N. Azevedo7, Joan Giménez8, Graham J. Pierce9, M. Begoña Santos2

1Instituto Español de Oceanografía, IEO-CSIC, Centro Oceanográfico de A Coruña, 15001 A Coruña, Spain
2Instituto Español de Oceanografía, IEO-CSIC, Centro Oceanográfico de Vigo, 36390 Vigo, Spain
3Veterinary Histology and Pathology, Veterinary School, Institute of Animal Health, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, c/Transmontaña s/n, 35416 Arucas, Spain
4Ecological Chemistry, Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
5Madeira Whale Museum, 9200-031 Caniçal, Madeira, Portugal
6Institute of Marine Sciences, Okeanos & Institute of Marine Research, IMAR, University of the Azores, 9900-138 Horta, Portugal
7Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes/Azorean Biodiversity Group, Department of Biology, University of the Azores, 9500-321 Ponta Delgada, Açores, Portugal
8Institut de Ciències del Mar, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (ICM-CSIC), Departament de Recursos Marins Renovables, Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
9Departamento de Ecoloxía e Recursos Mariños, Instituto de Investigacións Mariñas, Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IIM-CSIC), Eduardo Cabello 6, 36208 Vigo, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Dolphins play a key role in marine food webs as predators of mid-trophic-level consumers. Because of their mobility and relatively long life span, they can be used as indicators of large-scale changes in the ecosystem. In this study, we calculated the trophic position (TP) of 5 dolphin species from the Canary, Madeira and Azores Islands using bulk and compound-specific stable isotope ratios from muscle tissue to assess trophic adaptations to recent changes in the availability of feeding resources. Dolphin TP values were then compared with those of 7 other species of cetaceans from this region. Analysis of stable nitrogen isotopes in amino acids of the common dolphin indicated non-significant effects of changes in the basal resources of the food web and thus supported the use of bulk samples for TP estimations. Dolphins occupied an intermediate TP (mean: 3.91 to 4.20) between fin (3.25) and sperm whales (4.95). Species-specific TP were equivalent among islands. However, TP increased for the common dolphin and decreased for the bottlenose dolphin (the latter also becoming more oceanic) between 2000 and 2018 in the Canary Islands. These results suggest different impacts of recent changes in the oceanography and in the pelagic food web of the Macaronesian region on the trophic ecology of dolphin species.

KEY WORDS: Cetaceans · Marine mammals · Canary Islands · Madeira · Azores · Stable isotopes · Amino acids · Temporal change

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Cite this article as: Bode A, Saavedra C, Álvarez-González M, Arregui M and others (2022) Trophic position of dolphins tracks recent changes in the pelagic ecosystem of the Macaronesian region (NE Atlantic). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 699:167-180.

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