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See detailEpiphytic bryozoans on Neptune grass – a sample-based data set
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Heughebaert, André; Michel, Loïc ULg

in ZooKeys (in press)

Background The seagrass Posidonia oceanica L. Delile, commonly known as Neptune grass, is an endemic species of the Mediterranean Sea. It hosts a distinctive and diverse epiphytic community, dominated by ... [more ▼]

Background The seagrass Posidonia oceanica L. Delile, commonly known as Neptune grass, is an endemic species of the Mediterranean Sea. It hosts a distinctive and diverse epiphytic community, dominated by various macroalgal and animal organisms. Mediterranean bryozoans have been extensively studied but quantitative data assessing temporal and spatial variability have rarely been documented. In Lepoint et al. (2014a, b) occurrence and abundance data of epiphytic bryozoan communities on leaves of P. oceanica inhabiting the Revellata Bay (Corsica, Mediterranean Sea) were reported and trophic ecology of Electra posidoniae Gautier assessed. New information Here, we provide metadata information on data set discussed in Lepoint et al. 2014a and published on the GBIF portal as a sampling-event data set: http://ipt.biodiversity.be/resource?r=ulg_bryozoa&v=1.0). The data set, compared to Lepoint et al. 2014a, is enriched by data concerning species settled on Posidonia scales (dead petiole of Posidonia leaves, remaining after limb abscission). [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic plasticity of Antarctic echinoids under contrasted environmental conditions
Michel, Loïc ULg; David, Bruno; Dubois, Philippe et al

in Polar Biology (2016), 39(5), 913-923

Echinoids are common members of Antarctic zoobenthos, and different groups can show important trophic diversity. As part of the ANT-XXIX/3 cruise of RV Polarstern, trophic plasticity of sea urchins was ... [more ▼]

Echinoids are common members of Antarctic zoobenthos, and different groups can show important trophic diversity. As part of the ANT-XXIX/3 cruise of RV Polarstern, trophic plasticity of sea urchins was studied in three neighbouring regions (Drake Passage, Bransfield Strait and Weddell Sea) featuring several depth-related habitats offering different trophic environments to benthic consumers. Three families with contrasting feeding habits (Cidaridae, Echinidae and Schizasteridae) were studied. Gut content examination and stable isotopes ratios of C and N suggest that each of the studied families showed a different response to variation in environmental and food conditions. Schizasteridae trophic plasticity was low, and these sea urchins were bulk sediment feeders relying on sediment-associated organic matter in all regions and/or depth-related habitats. Cidaridae consumed the most animal-derived material. Their diet varied according to the considered area, as sea urchins from Bransfield Strait relied mostly on living and/or dead animal material, while specimens from Weddell Sea fed on a mixture of dead animal material and other detritus. Echinidae also showed important trophic plasticity. They fed on various detrital items in Bransfield Strait, and selectivity of ingested material varied across depth-related habitats. In Weddell Sea, stable isotopes revealed that they mostly relied on highly 13C-enriched food items, presumably microbially-reworked benthic detritus. The differences in adaptive strategies could lead to family-specific responses of Antarctic echinoids to environmental and food-related changes. [less ▲]

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See detailUse of stable isotope ratios to delineate coastal benthic food web structure in Adélie Land (East Antarctica)
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dubois, Philippe; Eleaume, Marc et al

Poster (2016, April 29)

Antarctica currently undergoes strong and contrasted impacts linked with climate change. While the West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions in the world, resulting in sea ice ... [more ▼]

Antarctica currently undergoes strong and contrasted impacts linked with climate change. While the West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions in the world, resulting in sea ice cover decrease, in some parts of East Antarctica sea ice cover tends to increase, possibly in relation with changes in atmospheric circulation. Changes in sea ice cover are likely to influence benthic food web structure through modifications of benthic-pelagic coupling, disruption of benthic production and/or modifications of benthic community structure (i.e. resource availability for benthic consumers). Here, we studied shallow (0-20 m) benthic food web structure on the coasts of Petrels Island (Adélie Land, East Antarctica) during an event of unusually high spatial and temporal (two successive austral summers without seasonal break-up) sea ice cover. Using stable isotope ratios of C, N and S, we examined importance of several organic matter sources (benthic macroalgae, benthic biofilm, sympagic algae, suspended particulate organic matter and penguin guano) for nutrition of over 20 taxa of benthic invertebrates (sponges, sea anemones, nemerteans, sessile and mobile polychaetes, gastropods, bivalves, sipunculids, pycnogonids, amphipods, sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers) spanning most present functional guilds. Our results provide insights about how Antarctic benthic consumers, which have evolved in an extremely stable environment, might adapt their feeding habits in response to sudden changes in environmental conditions and trophic resource availability. [less ▲]

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See detailResolving trophic links within temperate eelgrass meadows - use of fatty acids and stable isotopes in MixSIAR mixing model
Jankowska, Emilia; Wlodarska-Kowalczuk, Maria; De Troch, Marleen et al

Conference (2016, April 08)

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See detailImpacts of unusually high sea ice cover on Antarctic coastal benthic food web structure
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dubois, Philippe; Eleaume, Marc et al

Conference (2016, April 08)

Antarctica currently undergoes strong and contrasted impacts linked with climate change. While the West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions in the world, resulting in sea ice ... [more ▼]

Antarctica currently undergoes strong and contrasted impacts linked with climate change. While the West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions in the world, resulting in sea ice cover decrease, the sea ice cover of East Antarctica unexpectedly tends to increase, possibly in relation with changes in atmospheric circulation. Changes in sea ice cover are likely to influence benthic food web structure through modifications of benthic-pelagic coupling, disruption of benthic production and/or modifications of benthic community structure (i.e. resource availability for benthic consumers). Here, we studied shallow (0-20 m) benthic food web structure on the coasts of Petrels Island (Adélie Land, East Antarctica) during an event of unusually high spatial and temporal (two successive austral summers without seasonal break-up) sea ice cover. Using stable isotope ratios of C, N and S and the SIAR mixing model, we examined importance of several organic matter sources (benthic macroalgae, benthic biofilm, sympagic algae, suspended particulate organic matter and penguin guano) for nutrition of over 20 taxa of benthic invertebrates (sponges, sea anemones, nemerteans, sessile and mobile polychaetes, gastropods, bivalves, sipunculids, pycnogonids, amphipods, sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers) spanning most present functional guilds. Our results provide insights about how Antarctic benthic consumers, which have evolved in an extremely stable environment, might adapt their feeding habits in response to sudden man-driven changes in environmental conditions and trophic resource availability. [less ▲]

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See detailThe secret life of a Mediterranean seagrass litter macrofauna community : a history of oxygen
Remy, François ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Sturaro, Nicolas ULg et al

Conference (2016, February 12)

Most of the foliar primary production of Posidonia oceanica, a major Mediterranean seagrass, sheds in autumn and is exported from the meadow to adjacent areas to form "Exported Macrophytodetritus ... [more ▼]

Most of the foliar primary production of Posidonia oceanica, a major Mediterranean seagrass, sheds in autumn and is exported from the meadow to adjacent areas to form "Exported Macrophytodetritus Accumulations", EMAs. These EMAs are a habitat, shelter and feeding place for an abundant and diverse community of macrofauna. Being very dynamic places and potentially playing a role of transition compartment between water column and sediment, EMAs present high variability in term of physicochemical conditions and more specifically in term of oxygen concentration. Mild to severe hypoxic periods (2 - 0.01 mL O2.L-1) can be observed in situ at different moments of the year, and this variability thus potentially play a structuring role on the macrofauna community. During this study, our main specific questions were (1) Does oxygen stratification occur inside EMAs? (2) If present, how long does it take to observe this stratification? (3) Is the macrofauna impacted and do the dominant species occupy defined positions inside the different micro-habitats? To assess the importance of this impact, an experimental study was conducted in October 2014 near the STARESO oceanographic station (Calvi, Corsica) using an original "layer-sampling" design. The experimental construction was put underwater inside an EMA for 48 hours at a depth of 8m. Samples were collected (N=8) in a 20cm thick EMA using "sealed" boxes to sample every 5cm, from the sediment, to the water column. Oxygen, nutrients and of course the litter itself (containing the macrofauna) were sampled carefully to make sure no exchange occurred between the 4 different layers. After data analysis, the assessment was clear: oxygen stratification occurred in less than 48h and oxygen level inside the layer close to the sediment experienced a fast decrease below the hypoxia threshold (2 mL O2.L-1). Diversity was highly impacted, showing a clear positive link with oxygen concentration. Macrofauna also appeared to follow this oxygen stratification but this response was very species specific. Some species didn't follow oxygen and are present in every layer and most of them were strongly positively linked to oxygen concentration. But a few (Nebalia strausi and Athanas nitescens) were strongly negatively linked to oxygen concentration and were present only in the more hypoxic layers. This experimentation thus confirmed our in situ observations. Oxygen stratification occurred quickly (< 48h) when EMAs were experiencing calm weather. This stratification observed from the water column to the sediment was very marked. Diversity and abundance of most abundant macrofauna species were drastically influenced by this stratification, showing the importance of these micro-habitats in structuring of this macrofauna community. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic plasticity of Antarctic echinoids under contrasted environmental conditions
Michel, Loïc ULg; David, Bruno; Dubois, Philippe et al

Poster (2016, February 12)

Echinoids are common members of Antarctic zoobenthos, and different groups can show important trophic diversity. As part of the ANT-XXIX/3 cruise of RV Polarstern, trophic plasticity of sea urchins was ... [more ▼]

Echinoids are common members of Antarctic zoobenthos, and different groups can show important trophic diversity. As part of the ANT-XXIX/3 cruise of RV Polarstern, trophic plasticity of sea urchins was studied in three neighbouring regions (Drake Passage, Bransfield Strait and Weddell Sea) featuring several depth-related habitats offering different trophic environments to benthic consumers. Three families with contrasting feeding habits (Cidaridae, Echinidae and Schizasteridae) were studied. Gut content examination and stable isotopes ratios of C and N suggest that each of the studied families showed a different response to variation in environmental and food conditions. Schizasteridae trophic plasticity was low, and these sea urchins were bulk sediment feeders relying on sediment-associated organic matter in all regions and/or depth-related habitats. Cidaridae consumed the most animal-derived material. Their diet varied according to the considered area, as sea urchins from Bransfield Strait relied mostly on living and/or dead animal material, while specimens from Weddell Sea fed on a mixture of dead animal material and other detritus. Echinidae also showed important trophic plasticity. They fed on various detrital items in Bransfield Strait, and selectivity of ingested material varied across depth-related habitats. In Weddell Sea, stable isotopes revealed that they mostly relied on highly 13C-enriched food items, presumably microbially-reworked benthic detritus. The differences in adaptive strategies could lead to family-specific responses of Antarctic echinoids to environmental and food-related changes. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic diversity of seagrass detritus copepods: A consequence of species-specific specialization or a random diet?
Mascart, Thibaud; De Troch, Marleen; Remy, François ULg et al

in PeerJ PrePrints (2016, January 13), 4

One of the major ecological research questions is understanding how biodiversity influences ecosystem functioning. Unravelling interspecific feeding preferences of organisms with overlapping trophic ... [more ▼]

One of the major ecological research questions is understanding how biodiversity influences ecosystem functioning. Unravelling interspecific feeding preferences of organisms with overlapping trophic niches will give part of the answer. Subsequently, the present study displays the trophic diversity of a benthic copepod community in a North-Western Corsican Posidonia oceanica seagrass ecosystem. These seagrass meadows are often interrupted by bare sand patches serving as deposition area for loose detritus. The accumulated macrophytodetritus, mainly derived from senescent macrophytes, harbour a diverse community of Harpacticoida (Crustacea, Copepoda). The most abundant copepods (i.e. three harpacticoids and one calanoid, belonging to different eco-morphological types) and their potential food sources (i.e. macrophytodetritus, epiphytic biofilm and suspended organic matter) were analysed for stable isotope ratios (δ13C, δ15N) and total lipids content. The results revealed a harpacticoid copepod feeding preference towards the epiphytic biofilm, while calanoid copepods preferred suspended organic matter. Additionally, a species-specific composition variation revealed finer partitioning of food resources (e.g. different micro-organisms present in the biofilm like bacteria, diatoms, fungi) over time.In conclusion, results showed species-specific food preferences, resulting in trophic niche and resource partitioning. Every eco-morphological type seems to cope in different ways with temporal fluctuations of food sources to comply with their nutritional needs. This illustrates the high resilience of the copepod community present in macrophytodetritus accumulations. Moreover, our results underlined the importance of multiple biomarker species-specific analysis in trophic ecology studies, especially in complex and dynamic environments offering numerous food items to consumers. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic ecology of the seagrass-inhabiting footballer demoiselle Chrysiptera annulata (Peters, 1855); comparison with three other reef-associated damselfishes
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Parmentier, Eric ULg et al

in Belgian Journal of Zoology (2016), 146(1), 21-32

Many damselfishes (Pomacentridae) are herbivorous or omnivorous with an important contribution of different kinds of algae in their diet. They display different levels of territoriality and farming ... [more ▼]

Many damselfishes (Pomacentridae) are herbivorous or omnivorous with an important contribution of different kinds of algae in their diet. They display different levels of territoriality and farming behavior, from almost non territorial to monoculture farmers. In addition, few species inhabit seagrass meadows but, presently, none can be considered as seagrass-eating specialists. The footballer demoiselle, Chrysiptera annulata, is found in the seagrass meadows on the reef flat of the Great Reef of Toliara (Madagascar, Mozambique Channel). Regarding this unusual habitat for pomacentrid, this study aimed to answer 3 questions: 1) What is the diet of C. annulata? 2) Do the resources supporting this diet include seagrass? 3) Does its trophic niche overlap those of other sympatric damselfishes (Pomacentrus trilineatus, Chrysiptera unimaculata and Plectroglyphidodon lacrymatus) living in close association with macrophytes or eating algae? Stomach content examination and stable isotope analysis showed that the footballer demoiselle is not a seagrass consumer but is an omnivorous/herbivorous species heavily relying on algal resources and small invertebrates. SIAR, a stable isotope mixing model, indicated it assimilated large amount of turf algae and various benthic or planktonic invertebrates in lower proportions. SIBER metrics pointed out that isotopic niche of the footballer demoiselle partly overlaps the one of its congeneric C. unimaculata, but not those of P. trilineatus and P. lacrymatus. Trophic strategies of C. annulata differed both from farming species such as P. lacrymatus or from less territorial herbivores such as P. trilineatus. Its seagrass meadow habitat on the Great Reef of Toliara allow the conquest of an unusual habitat for damselfishes and could limit competition with C. unimaculata, a species displaying the same territorial behavior and the same isotopic niche but living on the reef itself. [less ▲]

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See detailPassive acoustic recording of Ophidion rochei calling activity in Calvi Bay (France)
Kever, Loïc ULg; Lejeune, Pierre; Michel, Loïc ULg et al

in Marine Ecology (2016)

Passive acoustic recording (PAR) systems are non-invasive and allow researchers to collect data on large spatial and temporal scales. Since fish sounds are species-specific and repetitive, PAR can provide ... [more ▼]

Passive acoustic recording (PAR) systems are non-invasive and allow researchers to collect data on large spatial and temporal scales. Since fish sounds are species-specific and repetitive, PAR can provide a large amount of data about spatio-temporal variation in fish distribution and behaviors. Ophidion rochei is a sand-dwelling species from Mediterranean and Black Sea meaning the behavior of this discreet nocturnal fish cannot be observed in the field. Fortunately, male O. rochei produce long multiple-pulsed calls that are easy to identify. The aim of this study was to determine that male calls are linked to reproduction behaviors. If so, PAR would allow a fine description of the seasonal and daily cycles in O. rochei reproduction. A hydrophone was deployed from 18 July 2011 to 21 June 2012 and from 7 June 2013 to 2 July 2013 on a sandy area (42.5801° N, 8.7285° E) in front of the STARESO research station (NW Corsica). Male sounds were obtained only at night from late spring to early fall. The annual sound production period corresponds to the reproductive season of O. rochei. Sound production followed diel cycles: it was sustained for the entire night at the beginning of the sound production season but limited to shorter periods in the evening during the second half of the season. These differences in daily and seasonal sound production tempo can be used in future recordings to make inter-annual comparisons and estimate the physiological state of the fish. [less ▲]

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See detailDominant amphipods of Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows display considerable trophic diversity
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

in Marine Ecology (2015), 36(4), 969-981

Gut content examination and trophic markers (fatty acids, stables isotopes of C and N) were combined to delineate the diet of the dominant species of amphipods from Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica ... [more ▼]

Gut content examination and trophic markers (fatty acids, stables isotopes of C and N) were combined to delineate the diet of the dominant species of amphipods from Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows and to highlight trophic diversity among this community. Our results indicate that, although all dominant species heavily relied on macroalgal epiphytes, considerable interspecific dietary differences existed. Carbon stable isotope ratios notably showed that some of the amphipod species favored grazing on epiphytes from leaves or litter fragments (Apherusa chiereghinii, Aora spinicornis, Gammarus aequicauda), while others like Dexamine spiniventris preferred epiphytes from rhizomes. The remaining amphipods (Caprella acanthifera, Ampithoe helleri and Gammarella fucicola) readily consumed both groups. In addition, SIAR modeling suggested that most species had a mixed diet, and relied on several food items. Fatty acid analysis and gut contents revealed that contribution of microepiphytic diatoms and of benthic and suspended particulate organic matter to the diet of amphipods were anecdotal. None of the examined species seemed to graze on their seagrass host (low 18:2(n-6) and 18:3(n-3) fatty acids contents), but G. aequicauda partly relied on seagrass leaf detritus, as demonstrated by the lesser 13C-depletion of their tissues. Overall, our findings suggest that amphipods, because of their importance in transfers of organic matter from primary producers and detritus to higher rank consumers, are key-items in P. oceanica associated food webs. [less ▲]

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See detailSTAtion of Reference and rEsearch on Change of local and global Anthropogenic Pressures on Mediterranean Ecosystems Drifts: The STARECAPMED project
Richir, Jonathan ULg; Abadie, Arnaud ULg; Binard, Marc ULg et al

Conference (2015, November 08)

The Marine and Oceanographic Research Station STARESO in the Calvi Bay, Corsica (France), is a unique tool in a preserved natural site that includes all the characteristic ecosystems of the Mediterranean ... [more ▼]

The Marine and Oceanographic Research Station STARESO in the Calvi Bay, Corsica (France), is a unique tool in a preserved natural site that includes all the characteristic ecosystems of the Mediterranean littoral. The station, established in 1970, has archived environmental data for decades. The STARECAPMED project, multidisciplinary, articulates itself around these two main features. Its objective is to understand how human activities can interact with the fundamental processes that govern the functioning of the different coastal ecosystems of a Mediterranean bay. The understanding of these interactions involves: (i) the identification of the anthropogenic pressures; (ii) the quantification of their impacts on the ecosystems; (iii) the prioritization of these impacts. STARECAPMED also aims to confirm the relevance of the use of the Calvi Bay as a reference in the study of local and global pressures and the changes they may cause on the structure and the functioning of Mediterranean coastal ecosytems. [less ▲]

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See detailPROTEKER : Mise en place d’un observatoire sous-marin côtier aux Îles Kerguelen
Saucède, T; Améziane, N; Feral, JP et al

Poster (2015, October 10)

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See detailStable isotope ratios suggest limited trophic importance of seagrasses for invertebrate consumers from Malagasy tropical polyspecific seagrass meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Wang, Haolin; Frederich, Bruno ULg et al

Conference (2015, October 09)

Polyspecific seagrass meadows are of critical ecological importance in tropical coastal zones. These ecosystems provide a wide range of socio-economical services to local populations. Meadows however ... [more ▼]

Polyspecific seagrass meadows are of critical ecological importance in tropical coastal zones. These ecosystems provide a wide range of socio-economical services to local populations. Meadows however undergo multiple threats linked to human activities (increased nutrient input, overfishing, invertebrate overharvesting, etc.). It is currently difficult to assess how seagrass meadows could respond to anthropogenic impacts due to poor knowledge of their functional ecology. Here, stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur were used to unravel trophic interactions ruling the food webs associated to seagrass beds of the Toliara Great Reef (SW Madagascar). The contributions of various potential food items (sediment-associated and suspended particulate organic matter, plankton, leaves, roots and epiphytes of 7 seagrasses and thalli of 7 dominant macroalgae) to the diet of 20 invertebrate taxa (one sea urchin, 2 sea stars, 2 sea cucumbers, 5 gastropods including one sea hare, one bivalve, 2 amphipods, one leptostracan, one cumacean 2 hermit crabs and 3 shrimps) were assessed using a Bayesian stable isotope mixing model. Model outputs revealed that important trophic diversity existed among the invertebrate assemblage. In some groups (e.g. hermit crabs and amphipods), resource use by morphologically and taxonomically close taxa was markedly different. Many of the dominant taxa heavily relied on macroalgae for their nutrition. On the other hand, few species apparently consumed seagrass tissues. Moreover, when they did, seagrass generally accounted for a minor portion of the diet only. Overall, our results suggest that seagrass grazing in meadows of the Toliara Great Reef could be lower than in other tropical areas. These discrepancies could be linked with seasonal variation in resource availability or with eutrophication. Higher nutrient load is indeed known to cause ecosystem phase shifts and it may induce diet shift to algivory in some invertebrate consumers. [less ▲]

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See detailApplying Stable Isotopes Bayesian Ellipses (SIBER) to characterise trophic niches of large cetaceans from the north-Western Medterranean Sea
Pinzone, Marianna ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Ody, Denis et al

Poster (2015, October 08)

Diet composition and feeding preferences are of critical importance to understand a species' ecology; better knowledge of these matters is necessary for efficient conservation. Few is known on the trophic ... [more ▼]

Diet composition and feeding preferences are of critical importance to understand a species' ecology; better knowledge of these matters is necessary for efficient conservation. Few is known on the trophic ecology of Mediterranean cetacean populations and the elusiveness of these organisms limits acquisition of new information. Here, we analysed C and N isotopic ratios of skin biopsies of 17 fin whales Balaenoptera physalus, 15 long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas and 25 sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus sampled through darting between summer 2010 and 2013 in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea. We subsequently used the SIBER R package to explore isotopic niche parameters as a proxy for trophic niches assessment. Fitting of standard ellipses to each species revealed that no niche overlap between the odontocetes and fin whales was present, in accordance with the lower trophic level of the latter. Moreover, overlap between the isotopic niches of the two odontocetes was limited, confirming resource partitioning between these two species. This could be linked with differences in hunting periods and depths and consequently in prey availability. Bayesian modelling of standard ellipses revealed that the isotopic niche of fin whales was larger than the two odontocetes in over 99.80% of 106 model simulations. It is the first time that such variability is observed in Mediterranean fin whales. This suggests possible exploitation of food items from different trophic levels (krill, small fishes) or from other regions, such as other areas in the Mediterranean Sea and the North-East Atlantic. Modelling also suggested that no meaningful differences were present in the width of isotopic niches of the two odontocetes. The very narrow isotopic niche of pilot whales is in strong contrast with the generalist feeding behaviour this species is believed to have according to literature analysis. Our results open new perspectives on the ecological role of Mediterranean cetaceans. [less ▲]

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See detailBaltic seagrass meadows as a sediment carbon sink
Jankowska, Emilia; Włodarska-Kowalczuk, Maria; Michel, Loïc ULg et al

Conference (2015, September 25)

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