Multi-tissue stable isotope analyses reveal temporal changes in the feeding patterns of green turtles in the Galapagos Marine Reserve

Diego Páez-Rosas, Pelayo Salinas-de-León, Alberto Proaño, Leandro Vaca-Pita, Jenifer Suarez-Moncada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Knowledge of feeding patterns of highly migratory species is critical for understanding their habitat use and informing the management of their populations. The Galapagos Islands are one of the most important nesting and feeding areas for green turtles (Chelonia mydas) across the tropical eastern Pacific, yet little is known about the feeding patterns of this species. The isotopic composition of different tissues has been used to gain insight into the trophic dynamics of mobile aquatic consumers whose trophic behavior is difficult to directly measure. To elucidate the temporal feeding patterns and isotopic niche sizes of Galapagos green turtles, stable isotope analyses were performed on multiple tissues (skin and carapace) collected at the two most important nesting areas in the archipelago: Bachas and Quinta Playa. The δ13C and δ15N signatures on the skin and carapace samples from 56 adult females revealed significant differences between tissues (p =.001 and p =.021, respectively) and nesting areas (p =.011 and p =.003, respectively). These differences suggest a shift from oceanic feeding grounds to neritic habitats before nesting. The carapace isotope values indicated an offshore feeding strategy and a greater isotopic niche (SEAc = 1.91‰2), whereas the skin isotope values represented an inshore feeding strategy with a narrower niche (SEAc = 1.37‰2), likely related to the consumption of specific coastal prey. Our results suggest that Galapagos green turtles feed across different habitats, and this information can be applied to improve the management of this endangered species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-328
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Chelonia mydas
  • Galapagos Islands
  • feeding patterns
  • isotopic niche
  • tropical eastern Pacific


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