Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
Characterising geographical variation in trophic interactions is an important step towards understanding the consequences of changes in food webs. We characterised geographical variation across ~1000 km in stable isotope values (δ15N and δ13C) of the widely distributed sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma and macroalgae that are its potential food. Variation in δ15N of H. erythrogramma and macroalgae was typically greatest among locations separated by hundreds of km, while variation in δ13C was typically greatest among reefs separated by a few km. Geographical variation in δ15N and δ13C of H. erythrogramma was well-explained by variation in δ15N and δ13C of the kelp Ecklonia radiata. The slope and intercept of regressions of stable isotope ratios of H. erythrogramma on kelp were within the range predicted if the sea urchin’s diet was exclusively kelp. These results are consistent with high reliance on a single diet across hundreds of km, revealing that H. erythrogramma likely relies predominantly on a single food source, viz. E. radiata, across southwestern Australia.