Bode, A., Saavedra, C., Álvarez-González, M., Arregui, M., Arbelo, M., Fernández, A., Freitas, L., Silva, M.A., Prieto, R., Azevedo, J.M.N., Giménez, J., Pierce, G.J. & Santos, M.B. (2022) Trophic position of dolphins tracks recent changes in the pelagic ecosystem of the Macaronesian region (NE Atlantic).Marine Ecology Progress Series, 699, 167-180. DOI:10.3354/meps14176 (IF2021 2,915; Q1 Marine & Freshwater Biology)
Dolphins play a key role in marine food webs as predators of mid-trophic-level consumers. Because of their mobility and relatively long life span, they can be used as indicators of large-scale changes in the ecosystem. In this study, we calculated the trophic position (TP) of 5 dolphin species from the Canary, Madeira and Azores Islands using bulk and compound-specific stable isotope ratios from muscle tissue to assess trophic adaptations to recent changes in the availability of feeding resources. Dolphin TP values were then compared with those of 7 other species of cetaceans from this region. Analysis of stable nitrogen isotopes in amino acids of the common dolphin indicated non-significant effects of changes in the basal resources of the food web and thus supported the use of bulk samples for TP estimations. Dolphins occupied an intermediate TP (mean: 3.91 to 4.20) between fin (3.25) and sperm whales (4.95). Species-specific TP were equivalent among islands. However, TP increased for the common dolphin and decreased for the bottlenose dolphin (the latter also becoming more oceanic) between 2000 and 2018 in the Canary Islands. These results suggest different impacts of recent changes in the oceanography and in the pelagic food web of the Macaronesian region on the trophic ecology of dolphin species.