, Volume 743, Issue 1, pp 109–125 | Cite as

Trophic ecology of dusky grouper Epinephelus marginatus (Actinopterygii, Epinephelidae) in littoral and neritic habitats of southern Brazil as elucidated by stomach contents and stable isotope analyses

  • Mario V. Condini
  • David J. Hoeinghaus
  • Alexandre M. Garcia
Primary Research Paper


Groupers are large-bodied fishes with broad global distribution and commercial and ecological importance. Many grouper species are endangered, but information on trophic ecology of groupers outside the Mediterranean Sea is limited. We integrated stomach contents analyses (SCA) and stable isotope analyses (SIA) to test the hypotheses that diets of dusky grouper Epinephelus marginatus differ between littoral and neritic zones in the southwestern Atlantic, but exhibit similar ontogenetic shifts in prey size and consumption of fishes. SCA were dominated by fishes, crabs, and shrimp and differed significantly between habitats, but prey size and consumption of fishes increased with grouper body size at both sites. Grouper stable isotope ratios were similar between sites and among size classes, but integrating SCA and SIA distinguished ingested versus assimilated dietary components, improved dietary resolution, and provided a more comprehensive assessment of grouper in the food webs. Dusky grouper integrate benthic and pelagic trophic pathways, as well as estuarine and marine food webs via consumption of migratory prey. Our findings have applications to other threatened grouper populations, for example, in managing fragmented populations or for reserve designs considering inclusion of artificial substrates as grouper habitat, and more broadly for approaches examining trophic ecology of generalist predators.


Food web IUCN red list Man-made habitats Migration Ontogenetic shifts Subsidies 



This study received financial support from the Fundação O Boticário de Proteção a Natureza (0831–20091). MVC and AMG acknowledge fellowship support from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq; 140570/2013-6 and 305888/2012-9, respectively). The authors are grateful to L. Madureira for the 3D bathymetric map of Carpinteiro Bank. This is a contribution of the research group “Grupo de Análises de Isótopos Estáveis em Ambientes Aquáticos” (GAIA/CNPq).

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario V. Condini
    • 1
  • David J. Hoeinghaus
    • 2
  • Alexandre M. Garcia
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Ichthyology, Institute of OceanographyFederal University of Rio GrandeRio GrandeBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Biological Sciences and the Institute of Applied SciencesUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA

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