We measured the fractionation of stable nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) isotopes in the breast and primary feathers of 11 Common Murres (Uria aalge) maintained on a diet of capelin (Mallotus villosus). Diet–feather δ15N fractionation from delipidated capelin muscle to murre feathers was 3.6‰ ± 0.2‰ in breast feathers and 3.7‰ ± 0.2‰ in primary feathers. Fractionation of δ13C was 2.5‰ ± 0.2‰ in breast feathers and 1.9‰ ± 0.3‰ in primary feathers. Prey–feather fractionation (for delipidated, muscle-only prey samples) for nine other species of seabirds ranged from 3.0‰ to 4.6‰ for δ15N and 0.1‰ to 2.5‰ for δ13C. Studies that did not remove lipids from prey samples showed higher δ15N and δ13C fractionation, and those that used whole prey items rather than muscle tissue alone showed higher δ15N fractionation. We suggest that: (1) prey samples be delipidated to facilitate interpretation of δ13C fractionation, (2) high interstudy and interspecific variation in δ13C makes species-specific studies essential, and (3) use of muscle tissue rather than whole bodies of fish will minimize unexplained variation in δ15N fractionation.
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Vol. 109 • No. 2