Polar Biology

, Volume 42, Issue 12, pp 2299–2304 | Cite as

Habitat, trophic levels and migration patterns of the short-finned squid Illex argentinus from stable isotope analysis of beak regions

  • José P. QueirósEmail author
  • Richard A. Phillips
  • Alexandra Baeta
  • José Abreu
  • José C. Xavier
Short Note


Illex argentinus is an ecologically and economically important species, assumed to be restricted to the Patagonian Shelf and around the subtropical convergence. Beaks found in diet samples from black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris during chick rearing initially suggested that it may also inhabit Antarctic waters until it was appreciated that I. argentinus is used as fishing bait by commercial longliners within albatrosses foraging areas. Here, we applied a new methodology involving stable isotope analysis (δ13C and δ15N) in two regions [tip of the rostrum (juvenile) and wing (adult)] of lower beaks obtained from diet samples of black-browed albatrosses breeding at Bird Island (South Georgia). The aims were to (1) assess if I. argentinus could inhabit Antarctic waters somewhere in the life cycle (2) determine the trophic ecology of I. argentinus, and (3) discuss possible migration patterns of I. argentinus and whether its distribution may change in the future. Values of δ13C (proxy for habitat) were − 18.4 ± 0.7‰ and − 17.1 ± 0.4‰ during the juvenile and adult life stages, respectively, indicating a northwards ontogenetic shift, and that this species exclusively inhabits waters north of the Antarctic Polar Front. Values of δ15N was lower in juveniles (+5.9 ± 1.1‰) than adults (+8.4 ± 1.3‰), indicating an increase of one trophic level throughout the squid’s life, suggesting a diet shift from zooplankton to fish and squid. Based on predicted effects of climate change, the distribution of I. argentinus may become more restricted as the northern limit moves southwards because of warming ocean temperature.


Thalassarche melanophris Ommastrephidae Ontogenetic shifts Argentine shortfin squid Cephalopod 



Authors would like to thank the British Antarctic Survey Team that collected samples at Bird Island. JQ was supported by a Travel Grant funded by SCAR under the Program AnT-ERA. This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Portugal Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, The Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) AnT-ERA and SCAR EGBAMM, and Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics of the Southern Ocean (ICED). It also benefited from MARE’s Strategic Program, financed by FCT (MARE-UID/MAR/04292/2013). Authors would like to thank the comments of the reviewers (Shannon Fitzgerald) that helped to improve the quality of the manuscript.


The author José P. Queirós was supported by a travel grant funded by SCAR under the program AnT-ERA. The scientific work has the support of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Portugal (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) AnT-ERA and SCAR EGBAMM, and Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics of the Southern Ocean (ICED). It also benefited from MARE’s strategic program, financed by FCT (MARE-UID/MAR/04292/2013).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The animal procedures used in this study were reviewed and approved by the Joint BAS ± Cambridge University Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Committee. Permits to operate were issued by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Research involving animals

This research uses beaks from squid. Beaks were collected by induced regurgitation of black-browed albatross chicks, a method that proved to be harmless to the chicks, not affecting their survival rate or fledging mass. The British Antarctic Survey provided all the support related to the permits for the fieldwork.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MARE – Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Departamento de Ciências da VidaUniversidade de CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal

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