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Publication . Article . 2021

Trophic indices for micronektonic fishes reveal their dependence on the microbial system in the North Atlantic.

Antonio Bode; M. Pilar Olivar; Santiago Hernández-León;
Open Access
Published: 01 Apr 2021
Publisher: Centro Oceanográfico de A Coruña
Country: Spain

The importance of microbes for the functioning of oceanic food webs is well established, but their relevance for top consumers is still poorly appreciated. Large differences in individual size, and consequently in growth rates and the relevant spatial and temporal scales involved, make the integration of microorganisms and large metazoans in a common food web framework difficult. Using stable isotopes, this study estimated the trophic position of 13 species of micronektonic fishes to examine the microbial and metazoan contribution to mid trophic level consumers. Vertically migrant species displayed higher trophic positions than non-migrant species in all depth layers. The estimated trophic positions agreed well with those from the literature, but all species displayed mean increases between 0.5 and 0.8 trophic positions when taking into account microbial trophic steps. Trophic position, but not the relative importance of the microbial food web, increased with individual size, suggesting that current estimates of the trophic position of top consumers and of the length of oceanic food webs are too low because they are based only on metazoan trophic steps. This finding calls for a review of trophic position estimates and of the efficiency of trophic transfers along oceanic food webs

This research was funded by projects BATHYPELAGIC (CTM2016-78853-R) from the Plan Estatal de I+D+I (Spain), SUMMER (Grant Agreement 817806) and TRIATLAS (Grant Agreement 817578), from the European Union (Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme), and Grant Number IN607A2018/2 from the Axencia Galega de Innovación (GAIN, Xunta de Galicia, Spain)

10 pages, 4 figures, supplementary information The original data on sample location, individual fish characteristics and stable isotope composition, including amino acids, can be accessed through the PANGAEA repository (

With the funding support of the ‘Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence’ accreditation (CEX2019-000928-S), of the Spanish Research Agency (AEI)

Peer reviewed

Subjects by Vocabulary

Microsoft Academic Graph classification: Food web Microbial food web Trophic level Microbial system Ecology Biology Temporal scales


fish, food webs, consumers, microorganisms, scales, Multidisciplinary, Animals, Ecosystem, Feeding Behavior, Fishes, Food Chain, Microbiota, Nitrogen Isotopes, Nutrition Assessment, Nutritional Status, Oceans and Seas, Article, Stable isotope analysis, Marine biology, Medicine, R, Science, Q

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Funded by
Sustainable management of mesopelagic resources
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 817806
  • Funding stream: H2020 | RIA
Validated by funder
Tropical and South Atlantic climate-based marine ecosystem predictions for sustainable management
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 817578
  • Funding stream: H2020 | RIA
Related to Research communities
European Marine Science
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Europe PubMed Central
Article . 2021
Data sources: PubMed Central