Skip to main content Accessibility help

Isotopic niche of two coastal dolphins in a tropical marine area: specific and age class comparisons

  • Ana Paula Madeira Di Beneditto (a1) and Leandro Rabello Monteiro (a1)


Niche differentiation is the process by which species evolve different forms of resource use, and is used to explain the co-occurrence in a variety of habitats. The Bayesian framework of isotopic niche through quantitative niche metrics was applied to estimate and compare the niche breadth of two sympatric coastal dolphins Pontoporia blainvillei and Sotalia guianensis in a tropical marine area. The standard ellipse areas (SEAs) based on species were quite similar, but the SEAs based on age class showed that the matures’ niche space is larger than the immatures’ for both dolphins. A probabilistic comparison of SEAs indicated that specific differences are negligible compared with age class differences. Trophic level measures (δ15N range) indicated that the dolphins are comparable as top predators, and that immature specimens have a lower range of trophic levels than mature ones. In terms of variability of food sources (δ13C range), S. guianensis showed a larger value than P. blainvillei and mature specimens had larger δ13C range than immatures for both species. In general, P. blainvillei and S. guianensis were similar in the niche metrics, with SEAs overlap of 52.1 and 39.7%. The immature specimens showed reduced isotopic niche overlap between species (<3%). In conclusion, Pontoporia blainvillei and S. guianensis specimens have similar isotopic niches, but pronounced differences between immature and mature specimens, both intraspecific and interspecific. Isotopic niche and quantitative metrics along with previous data on stomach contents provide a strong representation of species niche and their relationships.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: A.P. Madeira Di Beneditto, Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense Darcy Ribeiro, Centro de Biociências e Biotecnologia, Laboratório de Ciências Ambientais, Av. Alberto Lamego, 2000, Campos dos Goytacazes/RJ 28013-602, Brazil email:


Hide All
Abrantes, K.G., Barnett, A. and Bouillon, S. (2014) Stable isotope-based community metrics as a tool to identify patterns in food web structure in east African estuaries. Funtional Ecology 28, 270282.
Barreto, A.S., Rocha Campos, C.C., Rosas, F.W., Silva Júnior, J.M., Dalla Rosa, L., Flores, P.A.C. and da Silva, V.M.F. (2010) Plano de ação nacional para a conservação dos mamíferos aquáticos: pequenos cetáceos. Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade: Brasília.
Bolnick, D.I., Amarasekare, P., Araujo, M.S., Bürger, R., Levine, J.M., Novak, M., Rudolf, V.H.W., Schreiber, S.J., Urban, M.C. and Vasseur, D.A. (2011) Why intraspecific trait variation matters in ecology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26, 183192.
Bolnick, D.I., Svänback, R., Araujo, M.S. and Persson, L. (2007) Comparative support for the niche variation hypothesis that more generalized populations also are more heterogeneous. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104, 1007510079.
Bolnick, D.I., Svanbäck, R., Fordyce, J.A., Yang, L.H., Davis, J.M., Hulsey, C.D. and Forister, M.L. (2003) The ecology of individuals: incidence and implications of individual specialization. American Naturalist 161, 128.
Cherel, Y., Hobson, K.A., Bailleu, F. and Groscola, R. (2005) Nutrition, physiology, and stable isotopes: new information from fasting and molting penguins. Ecology 86, 28812888.
Danilewicz, D., Rosas, F., Bastida, R., Marijo, J., Muelbert, M., Rodríguez, D., Lainson-Brito, J. Jr., Ruopollo, V., Ramos, R., Bassoi, M., Ott, P.H., Caon, G., Rocha, A.M., Catão-Dias, J.L. and Secchi, E.R. (2002) Report of the Working Group on Biology and Ecology. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals Special Issue 1, 2542.
Di Beneditto, A.P.M. and Ramos, R.M.A. (2001) Biology and conservation of the franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei) in the north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 2, 185192.
Di Beneditto, A.P.M. and Ramos, R.M.A. (2004) Biology of the boto-cinza dolphin (Sotalia fluviatilis) in south-eastern Brazil. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 84, 12451250.
Di Beneditto, A.P., Ramos, R.M.A. and Lima, N.R.W. (2001) Os golfinhos: origem, classificação, captura acidental, hábito alimentar, 1st edn.Porto Alegre: Editora Cinco Continentes.
Di Beneditto, A.P.M., Rezende, C.E., Camargo, P.B. and Kehrig, H.A. (2013) Trophic niche comparison between two predators in northern Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil: a stable isotopes approach. Biota Neotropica 13, 2933.
Di Beneditto, A.P.M., Santos, R.A., Rosa, K.R. and Siciliano, S. (2015) Magellanic penguins: stomach contents and isotopic profiles to assess the feeding demands of juveniles in a wintering area off Brazil. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 95, 423430.
Di Beneditto, A.P.M. and Siciliano, S. (2007) Stomach contents of the marine tucuxi dolphin (Sotalia guianensis) from Rio de Janeiro, south-eastern Brazil. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 87, 253254.
Di Beneditto, A.P.M., Souza, C.M.M., Kehrig, H.A. and Rezende, C.E. (2011) Use of multiple tools to assess the feeding preference of coastal dolphins. Marine Biology 158, 22092217.
Froese, R. and Pauly, D. (2015) FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. Available at (accessed 15 January 2015).
Hobson, K.A. and Welch, H.E. (1992) Determination of trophic relationships within a high Arctic food web using δ13C and δ15 N analysis. Marine Ecology Progress Series 84, 918.
Hurlbert, S.H. and Lombardi, C.M. (2009) Final collapse of the Neyman-Pearson decision theoretic framework and rise of the neoFisherian. Annales Zoologici Fennici 36, 311349.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (2015) IUCN red list of threatened species. Version 2011.2. Available at (accessed 14 February 2015).
Jackson, A.L., Inger, R., Parnell, A.C. and Bearhop, S. (2011) Comparing isotopic niche widths among and within communities: SIBER – Stable Isotope Bayesian Ellipses in R. Journal of Animal Ecology 80, 595602.
Jackson, M.C. and Britton, J.R. (2014) Divergence in the trophic niche of sympatric freshwater Invaders. Biological Invasions 16, 10951103.
Jennings, S., Pinnegar, J.K., Nicholas, V.C. and Warr, K.J. (2002) Linking size-based and trophic analyses of benthic community structure. Marine Ecology Progress Series 226, 7785.
Kehrig, H.A., Seixas, T.G., Malm, O., Di Beneditto, A.P.M. and Rezende, C.E. (2013) Mercury and selenium biomagnification in a Brazilian coastal food web using nitrogen stable isotope analysis: a case study in an area under the influence of the Paraiba do Sul River plume. Marine Pollution Bulletin 75, 283290.
Kiszka, J., Sinom-Bouhet, B., Martinez, L., Pusineri, C., Richard, P. and Ridoux, V. (2011) Ecological niche segregation within a community of sympatric dolphins around a tropical island. Marine Ecology Progress Series 433, 273288.
Knickle, D.C. and Rose, G.A. (2014) Dietary niche partitioning in sympatric gadid species in coastal Newfoundland: evidence from stomachs and C-N isotopes. Environmental Biology of Fish 97, 343355.
MacArthur, R.H. (1972) Geographical ecology, patterns in the distribution of species, 1st edn.New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Lassalle, G., Chouvelon, T., Bustamante, P. and Niquil, N. (2014) An assessment of the trophic structure of the Bay of Biscay continental shelf food web: comparing estimates derived from an ecosystem model and isotopic data. Progress in Oceanography 120, 205215.
Layman, C.A., Arrington, D.A., Montan, C.G. and Post, D.M. (2007) Can stable isotope ratios provide for community-wide measures of trophic structure? Ecology 88, 4248.
Levins, R. (1968) Evolution in changing environments, 1st edn.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Oliveira, E.C.S., Tardin, R.H., Poletto, F.R. and Simão, S.M. (2013) Coordinated feeding behavior of the Guiana dolphin, Sotalia guianensis (Cetacea: Delphinidae), in southeastern Brazil: a comparison between populations. Zoologia 30, 585591.
Parnell, A.C., Inger, R., Bearhop, S. and Jackson, A.L. (2010) Source partitioning using stable isotopes: coping with too much variation. PLoS ONE 5, e9672. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009672.
Perrin, W.F., Würsig, B. and Thewissen, H. (2009) Encyclopedia of marine mammals, 2nd edn.San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Pimm, S.L. (2002) Food webs, 2nd edn.Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Post, D.M., Layman, C.A., Arrington, D.A., Takimoto, G., Quattrochi, J. and Montaña, C.G. (2007) Getting to the fat of the matter: models, methods and assumptions for dealing with lipids in stable isotope analyses. Oecologia 152, 179189.
Ramos, R.M.A., Di Beneditto, A.P. and Lima, N.R.W. (2000) Growth parameters of Pontoporia blainvillei and Sotalia fluviatilis (Cetacea) in northern Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Aquatic Mammals 26, 6575.
R Development Core Team (2011) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Version 2.12.2. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Computer program.
Rendell, L. and Whitehead, H. (2001) Culture in whales and dolphins. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24, 309382.
Secchi, E.R., Danilewicz, D. and Ott, P.H. (2003) Applying the phylogeographic concept to identify franciscana dolphin stocks: implications to meet management objectives. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 5, 6168.
Segura, A.M., Franco-Trecu, V., Franco-Fraguas, P., Arim, M. and Willian, T. (2015) Gape and energy limitation determine a humped relationship between trophic position and body size. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 72, 198205.
Tardin, R.H.O., Espede, M.A., Nery, M.F., D'Azeredo, F.T. and Simão, S.M. (2011) Coordinated feeding tactics of the Guiana dolphin, Sotalia guianensis (Cetacea: Delphinidae), in Ilha Grande Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Zoologia 28, 291296.
Whitehead, H., MacLeod, C.D. and Rodhouse, P. (2003) Differences in niche breadth among some teuthivorous mesopelagic marine mammals. Marine Mammal Science 19, 400406.
Zapata-Hernández, G., Sellanes, J., Thurber, A., Levin, L.A., Chazalon, F. and Linke, P. (2014) New insights on the trophic ecology of bathyal communities from the methane seep area off Concepción, Chile (~36°S). Marine Ecology 35, 121.


Isotopic niche of two coastal dolphins in a tropical marine area: specific and age class comparisons

  • Ana Paula Madeira Di Beneditto (a1) and Leandro Rabello Monteiro (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed