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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Dietary composition of endangered seahorses determined by stable isotope analysis

S. Valladares A C , D. X. Soto B and M. Planas A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC), Eduardo Cabello 6, E-36208 Vigo, Spain.

B Environment Canada, 11 Innovation Boulevarde, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 3H5, Canada.

C Corresponding author. Email: svallalago@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(5) 831-839 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16013
Submitted: 12 January 2016  Accepted: 25 May 2016   Published: 18 July 2016

Abstract

The lack of integrated measures for assessing the feeding ecology of seahorses may restrict the effectiveness of conservation actions on wild populations of worldwide threatened seahorse species. Identifying dietary sources will allow researchers to determine their degree of vulnerability to environmental changes, redefine their conservation status and apply appropriate management strategies. The resource use of the seahorse Hippocampus guttulatus inhabiting coastal waters of Galicia (north-western Iberian Peninsula) was assessed for three populations and 2 years using stable isotope mixing models. The Bayesian mixing model (MixSIAR) estimated the relative contributions of the dietary sources to the seahorse diet and revealed that Caprellidea were the primary source, followed by Gammaridea and Caridea. Mysidae and Annelida represented the less dominant prey. This prey preference can be explained by the foraging behaviour of seahorses. Different contributions of Gammaridea and Caridea to the diet were found among sites, indicating different habitat characteristics and hence different habitat use by seahorses within each site. In addition, differences were encountered among sexes. Caprellidea was the dominant prey for females, whereas Gammaridea was the dominant prey for males. The findings of the present study will contribute to the knowledge of feeding patterns of H. guttulatus, providing relevant data for conservation of this endangered species.

Additional keywords: conservation, fish, marine.


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