We contrasted concentrations of macronutrients (C, N and P), essential (As, Cu, Zn and Se) and non-essential metals (Pb, Hg and Cd) in invertebrates across five lakes and June to October in one lake. We predicted that somatic concentrations of tightly regulated elements would be less variable than weakly and unregulated elements. Within each taxon, variation was lowest in macronutrients, intermediate in essential micronutrients, and highest in non-essential metals, which corresponded in rank to homeostatic regulation strength for the same elements calculated from the literature. Hence, homeostatic regulation may strongly influence variation in element concentrations of biota in situ. Of the individual elements, only taxonomic differences in C and N were consistent across lakes and over a season. Nevertheless, canonical discriminant analyses successfully discriminated among taxa based on taxonomic multielement composition. Thus, relative taxonomic differences in multielement composition appear more informative than absolute stoichiometric formulae when considering the role of inherently variable trace elements in ecological investigations.
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