Stable isotope analysis reveals habitat partitioning among marine mammals off the NW African coast and unique trophic niches for two globally threatened species


Pinela, A.M., Borrell, A., Cardona, L. and Aguilar, A.



Secondary Title

Marine Ecology Progress Series






prey, habitat partitioning, resource partitioning, stable isotopes, trophic levels, Physeter macrocephalus, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Stenella coeruleoalba, Africa, Orcinus orca


Stable isotope abundances of carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N) in the bone of 13 species of marine mammals from the northwest coast of Africa were investigated to assess their positions in the local trophic web and their preferred habitats. Also, samples of primary producers and potential prey species from the study area were collected to characterise the local isotopic landscape. This characterisation indicated that 13C values increased from offshore to nearshore and that รค15N was a good proxy for trophic level. Therefore, the most coastal species were Monachus monachus and Sousa teuszii, whereas the most pelagic were Physeter macrocephalus and Balaenoptera acutorostrata. 15N values indicated that marine mammals located at the lowest trophic level were B. acutorostrata, Stenella coeruleoalba and Delphinus sp., and those occupying the highest trophic level were M. monachus and P. macrocephalus. The trophic level of Orcinus orca was similar to that of M. monachus, suggesting that O. orca preys on fish. Conservation of coastal and threatened species (M. monachus and S. teuszii) off NW Africa should be a priority because these species, as the main apex predators, cannot be replaced by other marine mammals.