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Ferox Trout (Salmo trutta) as `Russian dolls': complementary gut content and stable isotope analyses of the Loch Ness foodweb

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>07/2002
<mark>Journal</mark>Freshwater Biology
Issue number7
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)1235-1243
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


1. Conventional collection methods for pelagic fish species (netting, trawling) are impractical or prohibited in Loch Ness, U.K. To investigate trophic relationships at the top of the Loch Ness food web, an alternative strategy, angling, provided samples of the top predator, the purely piscivorous ferox trout (Salmo trutta).
2. The gut contents of these fish provided further samples of prey-fish, and subsequent examination of prey-fish guts revealed their dietary intake, analogous to the famous nested `Russian dolls'. Each trophic level separated by gut content analysis provided further complementary samples for stable isotope analysis and thus information on the longer term, assimilated diet.
3. Ferox trout exhibited considerable cannibalism to supplement a diet of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus). However, conspecifics stemmed from a lower isotopic baseline in relation to charr, so ferox trout exhibited a lower trophic level than predicted (4.3) by using the δ15N values. Charr displayed dietary specialisation with increasing length, and isotopic values supported by the gut data placed the charr at a trophic level of 3.5. The isotope data also indicated that charr carbon was primarily autochthonous in origin.