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Tissue-specific turnover rates of the nitrogen stable isotope as functions of time and growth in a cyprinid fish

Busst, Georgina M. A., Britton, J. Robert
Hydrobiologia 2018 v.805 no.1 pp. 49-60
Barbus barbus, diet, fish, half life, juveniles, muscles, nitrogen, stable isotopes, tissues
Ecological applications of stable isotope data require knowledge on the isotopic turnover rate of tissues, usually described as the isotopic half-life in days (T ₀.₅) or the change in mass (G ₀.₅). Ecological studies increasingly analyse tissues collected non-destructively, such as fish fin and scales, but there is limited knowledge on their turnover rates. Determining turnover rates in situ is challenging, with ex situ approaches preferred. Correspondingly, T ₀.₅ and G ₀.₅ of the nitrogen stable isotope (δ¹⁵N) were determined for juvenile barbel Barbus barbus (5.5 ± 0.6 g starting weight) using a diet-switch experiment. δ¹⁵N data from muscle, fin and scales were taken during a 125 day post diet-switch period. Whilst isotopic equilibrium was not reached in the 125 days, the δ¹⁵N values did approach those of the new diet. The fastest turnover rates were in more metabolically active tissues, from muscle (highest) to scales (lowest). Turnover rates were relatively slow; T ₀.₅ was 84 (muscle) to 145 (scale) days; G ₀.₅ was 1.39 × body mass (muscle) to 2.0 × body mass (scales), with this potentially relating to the slow growth of the experimental fish. These turnover estimates across the different tissues emphasise the importance of estimating half-lives for focal taxa at species and tissue levels for ecological studies.