Inter-individual differences in ontogenetic trophic shifts among three marine predators.
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Ontogenetic niche shifts are widespread. However, individual differences in size at birth, morphology, sex, and personalities can cause variability in behavior. As such, inherent inter-individual differences within populations may lead to context-dependent changes in behavior with animal body size, which is of concern for understanding population dynamics and optimizing ecological monitoring. Using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values from concurrently sampled tissues, we quantified the direction and magnitude of intraspecific variation in trophic shifts among three shark species, and how these changed with body size: spurdogs (Squalus spp.) in deep-sea habitats off La Runion, bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) in estuarine habitats of the Florida Everglades, and blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) in coral reef ecosystems of Moorea, French Polynesia. Intraspecific variation in trophic shifts was limited among spurdogs, and decreased with body size, while bull sharks exhibited greater individual differences in trophic shifts, but also decreased in variability through ontogeny. In contrast, blacktip reef sharks exhibited increased intraspecific variation in trophic interactions with body size. Variability in trophic interactions and ontogenetic shifts are known to be associated with changes in energetic requirements, but can vary with ecological context. Our results suggest that environmental stability may affect variability within populations, and ecosystems with greater spatial and/or temporal variability in environmental conditions, and those with more diverse food webs may facilitate greater individual differences in trophic interactions, and thus ontogenetic trophic shifts. In light of concerns over environmental disturbance, elucidating the contexts that promote or dampen phenotypic variability is invaluable for predicting population- and community-level responses to environmental changes.
author list (cited authors)
Matich, P., Kiszka, J. J., Heithaus, M. R., Le Bourg, B., & Mourier, J.
complete list of authors
Matich, Philip||Kiszka, Jeremy J||Heithaus, Michael R||Le Bourg, Baptiste||Mourier, Johann