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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 706:1-15 (2023)  -  DOI:

Reconstructing trophic position over the past century for five Puget Sound fish species

R. L. Welicky1,2,6,*, M. L. Feddern1,3, T. Rolfe4, K. Leazer1,7, A. Moosmiller1, E. Fiorenza1, K. P. Maslenikov1,5, L. Tornabene1,5, G. W. Holtgrieve1, C. L. Wood1

1University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
2North-West University, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West 2520, South Africa
3University of Alaska, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
4University of Washington, School of Oceanography, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
5Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
6Present address: Neumann University, School of Arts and Sciences, Aston, PA 19014, USA
7Present address: Western Washington University, Huxley College of the Environment, Bellingham, WA 98225, USA
*Corresponding email:

ABSTRACT: The comparison of historical and modern food web dynamics allows ecologists to test whether the trophic connectivity we observe today is ‘normal’ in its historical context. Fish densities and abundances have changed across time, making it likely that fish trophic interactions and their trophic positions have also changed. Historical trophic data of marine fishes can now be extracted from the tissues of fluid-preserved specimens held in natural history collections via compound-specific stable isotope analysis of amino acids (CSIA-AA) of nitrogen. We conducted CSIA-AA to quantify trophic position change over the past century in 5 ecologically important fishes of Puget Sound, Washington, USA: Pacific hake Merluccius productus, walleye pollock Gadus chalcogrammus, copper rockfish Sebastes caurinus, English sole Parophrys vetulus, and Pacific herring Clupea pallasii, and examined the canonical trophic (glutamic acid) and source (phenylalanine) amino acids. For all fishes except copper rockfish, trophic position, glutamic acid, and phenylalanine values remained similar across time. For copper rockfish, glutamic acid but not phenylalanine values increased over time, indicating an increase in this species’ trophic position. The observed increase in copper rockfish trophic position may be a function of diet switching and declining prey quality rather than a consequence of rockfish consuming higher trophic level prey. This study leverages more than 100 yr of trophic data of fishes representing various feeding guilds and demonstrates that some fish species may be more trophically resilient to major environmental change than expected. Efforts should be made to identify and conserve the trophic interactions of species experiencing change.

KEY WORDS: Trophic ecology · Natural history collections · Compound-specific stable isotope analysis · Glutamic acid · Nitrogen · Phenylalanine

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Cite this article as: Welicky RL, Feddern ML, Rolfe T, Leazer K and others (2023) Reconstructing trophic position over the past century for five Puget Sound fish species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 706:1-15.

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