C and N stable isotopes enlighten the trophic behaviour of the dugong (Dugong dugon)

Thibault, Martin, Letourneur, Yves, Cleguer, Christophe, Bonneville, Claire, Briand, Marine J., Derville, Solene, Bustamante, Paco, and Garrigue, Claire (2024) C and N stable isotopes enlighten the trophic behaviour of the dugong (Dugong dugon). Scientific Reports, 14. 896.

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The dugong (Dugong dugon), a large marine mammal herbivore of the Indo-Pacific, is vulnerable to extinction at a global scale due to a combination of human-related threats including habitat degradation. The species forages on seagrass habitats (marine phanerogams) and plays a key role in the functioning and sensitivity of these declining coastal ecosystems. The trophic behaviour and plasticity of dugong populations in response to extrinsic and intrinsic factors are therefore crucial features to both dugong and seagrass conservation. Yet, this knowledge remains limited to few visual observations and analyses of mouth, stomach or faecal contents of stranded individuals. We take advantage of a long-term monitoring of stranded individuals from the endangered New Caledonian population to depict features of dugongs’ trophic ecology from Carbon and Nitrogen stable isotopes. A total of 59 dugong skin samples were used to portrait the stable isotope niche of dugongs according to their sex and maturity. In light of previous work conducted in New Caledonia, a subset of these samples was used to model the trophic mix of dugong males and females. Our stable isotope mixing models used C and N isotope values of 10 taxa belonging to five divisions of metazoans, plants, and chromists. Our results represent the first estimate of the species dietary niche in the isotopic space. They suggest that the diet of dugong calves overlaps more with that of adult females (δ13C: − 6.38 ± 1.13 ‰; δ15N: 2.49 ± 1.10 ‰) than males (δ13C: − 5.92 ± 1.10 ‰; δ15N: 3.69 ± 1.28 ‰). Further, we highlight differences in the expected trophic mix of dugong adult males and females. From these, we formulate a sex-specific foraging behaviour hypothesis in dugongs, whereby lactating females could forage over smaller spatial ranges but more diverse food sources than males. The study emphasizes the importance of long-term stranding monitoring programs to study the ecology of marine mammals.. Finally, it depicts an ecological feature that may contribute to the sensitivity of vulnerable dugongs to ongoing changes on tropical coastal ecosystems.

Item ID: 81714
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2024. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. Te images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2024 00:06
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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