Effects of body size and environment on diet-tissue δ13C fractionation in fishes

C. J. Sweeting, J. T. Barry, N. V. C. Polunin, S. Jennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


d13C data are often used in trophodynamic research where diet-tissue fractionation (?d13C) is assumed to be 0-1‰ per trophic level and unaffected by the size of animals or their environment. Variation in ?d13C will influence conclusions about food sources, energy pathways and trophic level. To assess the effects of body size, age and environmental conditions on ?d13C, European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) were reared on constant diets of dab (Limanda limanda) or (Ammodytes marinus) for 2years under natural environmental regimes. Bass were sampled approximately monthly to determine ?d13C for muscle, heart and liver tissue and were 1.66‰, - 0.18‰, - 1.77‰ (sandeel diet) and 1.34‰, - 1.18‰, - 1.75‰ (dab diet) respectively. Arithmetic lipid correction increased ?d13C to > 2‰ for muscle and liver. ?d13C was dependent on body mass and experimental duration (age) and generally declined with weight or time even after correction for lipid content. For liver, increasing temperature increased ?d13C. The ?d13C estimates from this study were compared with all available published ?d13C estimates for fish. Bass muscle ?d13C was similar to previous estimates for fish white muscle ?d13C (1.56 ± 1.10‰) and whole body ?d13C (1.52 ± 1.13‰). Fractionations derived in this study, combined with those from the literature, support the use of diet-tissue fractionation values of between 1‰-2‰ for d13C, rather than the commonly used 0‰ - 1‰. For muscle ?d13C, 1.5‰ is appropriate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-176
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Cite this