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Predator: prey size relationships of marine zooplankton: Testing the 10:1 hypothesis with stable isotopes

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Michael Landry
Lisa Della Ripa
Moira Décima
Christina Bradley
Brian Popp

Size-based theories of energy flow in marine plankton ecosystems, as well as numerous conceptual models, assume that predators and prey are linked, on average, by a body length ratio of 10:1.  We tested this hypothesis using bulk N isotopes and Compound-Specific Isotope Analyses of individual Amino Acids (CSIA-AA) on size-fractioned zooplankton representing a 10-fold increase in body size.  We also compared collections from four regions which vary substantially in biogeochemistry of source N:  the California Current (coastal upwelling), the Costa Rica Dome (denitrification), the central equatorial Pacific (high nitrate, iron-limited) and the subtropical North Pacific (nitrogen fixation).  Upon analysis, size relationships were significantly greater (>20:1) than predicted by the 10:1 hypothesis.  For contrasting ecosystems, we found similar variations of δ15N trophic enrichment with zooplankton size.  Underlying predator-prey size relationships therefore appear to be similar for these systems.  CSIA-AA confirmed that substantial 6-8 ‰ offsets in δ15N among the regions reflected differences in source N to the food-web base, rather than differences in mean trophic enrichment for animals of a given size.  

Background Photo by: Nicole Hansen - Jornada (JRN) LTER