Resource Partitioning of Sympatric Lutjanids in the Northern Gulf of Mexico Using Stable Isotope Analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • Lutjanid snappers are ubiquitous at reef sites in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Gulf), but the degree of niche overlap and basal resource utilization is unknown for most species. Muscle tissue for stable isotope analysis was opportunistically sampled from red snapper (Lujanus campechanus), gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus), lane snapper (Lutjanus synagris), and vermilion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens) recreational catches across the northern Gulf. A Bayesian mixing model used to compare resource utilization indicated that Lutjanids occupy niches with varying degrees of overlap among regions but maintain a consistent hierarchy in isotopic composition. Scale shifts among regions were likely due to differences in riverine outflow, nitrogen fixation, and anoxic zones that alter prey abundance or isotopic 15N ratios. All four Lutjanid species had high percent contributions from particulate organic matter and benthic microalgae with little contribution by macroalgae to any species in any region. Ontogenetic shifts in stable isotope values were observed in most species indicating that size plays an important role in avoiding niche overlap due to intense competition for high-value prey items among congeners at isolated reef sites. Diet specialization is modest but likely plays an important role in avoiding complete niche overlap.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Garner, S. B., Sluis, M. Z., Wells, R., Boswell, K. M., & Cowan Jr, J. H.

complete list of authors

  • Garner, Steven B||Sluis, Michelle Zapp||Wells, RJ David||Boswell, Kevin M||Cowan Jr, James H

publication date

  • 2023


published in