Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Use of epidermal mucus in elasmobranch stable isotope studies: a pilot study using the giant manta ray (Manta birostris)

K. B. Burgess A B F , M. Guerrero C , A. J. Richardson D E , M. B. Bennett A and A. D. Marshall B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Chancellors Place, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

B Marine Megafauna Foundation, 11260 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161, USA.

C Fundacion Megafauna Marina del Ecuador (Proyecto Mantas Ecuador), Calle Alemania N32-71 y Avenue Mariana de Jesús, Quito 170147, Ecuador.

D CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, EcoSciences Precinct, GPO Box 2583, Dutton Park, Qld 4001, Australia.

E Centre for Applications in Natural Resource Mathematics, School of Mathematics and Physics, Priestley Building, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email: k.burgess@uq.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16355
Submitted: 19 October 2016  Accepted: 5 December 2016   Published online: 4 September 2017

Abstract

Stable isotope analysis of tissues with different turnover rates allows for a broader temporal view of a species’ feeding habits. Epidermal mucus is a rapid to medium turnover ‘tissue’ in teleost fish, but its use in elasmobranch dietary studies is unknown. In the present study, we conducted stable isotope analysis on mucus and muscle from the giant manta ray Manta birostris. Mucus δ13C values were depleted and closer to surface zooplankton δ13C values compared with muscle, whereas there was no significant difference in δ15N values between these two tissue types. Using diet tissue discrimination factors from the literature, there was no significant difference in the expected prey profile between muscle and epidermal mucus. However, a broader range in δ13C values of expected prey was shown for mucus compared with muscle. The results suggest that if M. birostris mucus is indicative of recent dietary intake, resource use during aggregative behaviour off Ecuador is broader, but with no obvious resource switching. The present study is the first example of using bulk stable isotope analysis to evaluate mucus to investigate feeding ecology in elasmobranchs. However, the time course for the change in mucus isotope signature still needs to be determined through controlled feeding studies in an aquarium setting.

Additional keywords: eastern tropical Pacific; feeding ecology; habitat use; planktivore, seasonal resources.


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