Abstract

Amazonian fish assemblages are typically high in species diversity and trophic complexity. Stable isotopes are valuable tools to describe the trophic structure of such assemblages, providing useful information for conservation and ecological management. This study aimed at estimating the relative contribution of the different basal carbon sources to the diet of primary consumer fishes (herbivores and detritivores), and determining the trophic position (TP) of the dominant fishes from each trophic guild (herbivores, detritivores, invertivores and piscivores). For this purpose we analyzed stable isotope ratios of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in potential food sources, and muscle tissue of fishes in five oxbow lakes located in the floodplain of River Ichilo, Bolivia. Terrestrial plants and C3 aquatic macrophytes were the major carbon source contributing to the diet of herbivorous fishes, whereas particulate organic matter (POM) contributed more to the diet of detritivore fishes. In general, C4 aquatic macrophytes contributed little to the diet of herbivores and detritivores. However, we found a relatively high contribution of C4 macrophytes (28 %) to the diet of the herbivores Mylossoma duriventre and Schizodon fasciatus. We found a good agreement between our estimated TP values and the trophic group assigned based on diet composition from literature. The herbivore M. duriventre was at the bottom of the food web, being the baseline organism (TP = 2). The remaining primary consumers (herbivores and algivore/detritivores) exhibited relatively high TP values (2.3 - 2.9), probably due to their opportunistic feeding behavior. Omnivore/invertivore species studied displayed TP values near the 3.0 value expected for secondary consumers. Piscivore fishes were at the top TP, with TP values varying from 3.3 (Serrasalmus spilopleura and Serrasalmus rhombeus) to 3.8 (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum). The fact that detritivore fishes, the most abundant food source for piscivores, occupy relatively high TPs determines that food chains in these particular Amazonian floodplains are longer than previously thought.