Environmental context and trophic trait plasticity in a key species, the tellinid clam Macoma balthica L..

Törnroos, A., Nordström, M.C., Aarnio, K. and Bonsdorff, E. (2015) Environmental context and trophic trait plasticity in a key species, the tellinid clam Macoma balthica L.. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 472 . pp. 32-40. DOI 10.1016/j.jembe.2015.06.015.

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Supplementary data:



Experimental stable isotope study on trophic plasticity in adult Macoma balthica.

Contrasts in isotope signatures attributed to hydrographical and biotic settings.

Changing signatures in transplanted clams show switch in feeding in new environment.


Species show varying levels of plasticity regarding morphology, physiology and behaviour in relation to their immediate environment, and several trait characteristics are habitat-dependent. Determining when and how the environmental context changes trait expression is of key importance for understanding the role of individual species for ecosystem functioning. The tellinid clam Macoma balthica can vary its feeding behaviour, shifting between deposit- and suspension-feeding. In order to study the context-dependency of this trophic plasticity in adult clams, we conducted an experiment assessing food uptake by using stable isotope signatures (δ13C and δ15N). We transplanted individuals between and within two shallow bays differing in exposure (exposed–sheltered) and sediment characteristics. Our results show that isotope signatures of clams differed between the two habitats and that clams in the exposed site showed stable isotope values linked to a diet of suspended particulate organic material, while values of individuals in the sheltered site corresponded to an uptake of sediment-bound organic material. Clams transplanted between these two environmental settings were gradually showing differing isotopic signatures from clams at their original habitat, over time mirroring the changes in clams in the site to which they were transferred. The shift in carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes of the clams provides insights into the context-dependent intraspecific feeding plasticity of this zoobenthic key species. The causes for this shift were coupled to contrasts in the hydrodynamic and biotic setting, implying that feeding plasticity may explain adaptation of organisms to changes in their surroundings.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Trophic function; Intraspecific plasticity; Suspension-feeding; Deposit-feeding; Stable isotopes δ13C and δ15N; Macoma balthica
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
Publisher: Elsevier
Projects: BONUS BIO-C3
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2016 09:48
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2016 09:48
URI: https://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/31534

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