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Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2010 Apr;155(4):445-53. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2009.09.023. Epub 2009 Oct 2.

delta15N and delta13C diet-tissue discrimination factors for large sharks under semi-controlled conditions.

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School of Ocean Sciences, College of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, LL59 5AB, Wales, UK. <>


Stable isotopes (delta(15)N and delta(13)C) are being widely applied in ecological research but there has been a call for ecologists to determine species- and tissue-specific diet discrimination factors ((13)C and (15)N) for their study animals. For large sharks stable isotopes may provide an important tool to elucidate aspects of their ecological roles in marine systems, but laboratory based controlled feeding experiments are impractical. By utilizing commercial aquaria, we estimated (15)N and (13)C of muscle, liver, vertebral cartilage and a number of organs of three large sand tiger (Carcharias taurus) and one large lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) under a controlled feeding regime. For all sharks mean+/-SD for (15)N and (13)C in lipid extracted muscle using lipid extracted prey data were 2.29 per thousand+/-0.22 and 0.90 per thousand+/-0.33, respectively. The use of non-lipid extracted muscle and prey resulted in very similar (15)N and (13)C values but mixing of lipid and non-lipid extracted data produced variable estimates. Values of (15)N and (13)C in lipid extracted liver and prey were 1.50 per thousand+/-0.54 and 0.22 per thousand+/-1.18, respectively. Non-lipid extracted diet discrimination factors in liver were highly influenced by lipid content and studies that examine stable isotopes in shark liver, and likely any high lipid tissue, should strive to remove lipid effects through standardising C:N ratios, prior to isotope analysis. Mean vertebral cartilage (15)N and (13)C values were 1.45 per thousand+/-0.61 and 3.75 per thousand+/-0.44, respectively. Organ (15)N and (13)C values were more variable among individual sharks but heart tissue was consistently enriched by approximately 1-2.5 per thousand. Minimal variability in muscle and liver delta(15)N and delta(13)C sampled at different intervals along the length of individual sharks and between liver lobes suggests that stable isotope values are consistent within tissues of individual animals. To our knowledge, these are the first reported diet-tissue discrimination factors for large sharks under semi-controlled conditions, and are lower than those reported for teleost fish.

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