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PLoS One. 2014 Mar 20;9(3):e92288. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092288. eCollection 2014.

δ15N value does not reflect fasting in mysticetes.

Author information

1
Department of Animal Biology and Biodiversity Research Institute (IrBio), Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Abstract

The finding that tissue δ(15)N values increase with protein catabolism has led researchers to apply this value to gauge nutritive condition in vertebrates. However, its application to marine mammals has in most occasions failed. We investigated the relationship between δ(15)N values and the fattening/fasting cycle in a model species, the fin whale, a migratory capital breeder that experiences severe seasonal variation in body condition. We analyzed two tissues providing complementary insights: one with isotopic turnover (muscle) and one that keeps a permanent record of variations in isotopic values (baleen plates). In both tissues δ(15)N values increased with intensive feeding but decreased with fasting, thus contradicting the pattern previously anticipated. The apparent inconsistency during fasting is explained by the fact that a) individuals migrate between different isotopic isoscapes, b) starvation may not trigger significant negative nitrogen balance, and c) excretion drops and elimination of 15N-depleted urine is minimized. Conversely, when intensive feeding is resumed in the northern grounds, protein anabolism and excretion start again, triggering 15N enrichment. It can be concluded that in whales and other mammals that accrue massive depots of lipids as energetic reserves and which have limited access to drinking water, the δ15N value is not affected by fasting and therefore cannot be used as an indication of nutritive condition.

PMID:
24651388
PMCID:
PMC3961314
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0092288
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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