Otolith chemistry of prey fish consumed by a fish predator: does digestion hinder Russian doll techniques?

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Abstract

The effect of digestion by a predatory fish (largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides) on stable isotopic (δ13C and δ18O) and trace elemental (Sr:Ca and Ba:Ca) compositions of prey fish (bluegill Lepomis macrochirus) otoliths was investigated in a laboratory experiment. Trace element and stable-isotopic signatures of L. macrochirus otoliths were not significantly altered for up to 16 h after L. macrochirus were consumed by M. salmoides. Prey fish otoliths recovered from predator digesta can retain environmental stable isotopic and trace elemental signatures, suggesting that determination of environmental history for prey fishes by stable-isotope and trace-element analysis of otoliths recovered from stomachs of piscivorous fishes will be feasible.

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