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Carbon isotopes of essential amino acids highlight greater contribution of far-field vs near-field subsidies to predators on oceanic coral reefs
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  • Christina Skinner,
  • Aileen C Mill,
  • Steven Newman,
  • Yiou Zhu,
  • Alison Kuhl,
  • Nicholas Polunin
Christina Skinner
Newcastle University School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
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Aileen C Mill
Newcastle University School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
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Steven Newman
Banyan Tree Marine Lab
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Yiou Zhu
Newcastle University School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
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Alison Kuhl
University of Bristol
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Nicholas Polunin
Newcastle University School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
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Abstract

Reef predators are partly sustained by oceanic production sources, but the pathways through which this occurs remain poorly understood. Studies exploring reef-pelagic linkages have used bulk stable isotopes, yet these have limited power to discriminate between major source types. We used δ13C values of essential amino acids (δ13CEAA), which can better resolve different modes of carbon acquisition, to trace the origin of the carbon sources sustaining reef predator biomass in the Maldives. White muscle tissue was sampled from four key fishery target groupers and eight primary consumer species (representing six energy pathways). Primary consumer δ13CEAA values separated into four distinct clusters: 1) algae/detritus, 2) coral, 3) reef plankton, and 4) pelagic plankton. Bayesian stable isotope mixing models identified pelagic plankton as primarily sustaining all four groupers across the atoll, indicating that oceanic nutrients are available throughout and that these reefs may be more resilient to bleaching-induced loss of live coral.