Comparison of isotopic niches of four sea cucumbers species (Holothuroidea: Echinodermata) inhabiting two seagrass meadows in the southwestern Mediterranean Sea (Mostaganem, Algeria)

Nor Eddine Belbachir, Gilles Lepoint, Karim Mezali


Among the fauna inhabiting the Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow, holothurians are particularly abundant and provide essential ecological roles, including organic matter recycling within seagrass sediments. This study aimed to investigate the trophic niche of four holothurians of the order Holothuriida [Holothuria poli (Delle Chiaje, 1824), Holothuria tubulosa (Gmelin, 1791), Holothuria sanctori (Delle Chiaje, 1823) and Holothuria forskali (Delle Chiaje, 1823)] inhabiting P. oceanica meadows, through the measurement of nitrogen and carbon stable isotope ratios. Two shallow and contrasting sites of the littoral region of Mostaganem (North West Algeria) were chosen. The first site, located in Stidia, is weakly impacted by human activities. The second site, located in Salamandre, is highly impacted by human activities (industries, harbor facilities). High values of δ15N in holothurians and their food sources were observed at both sites. The δ13C values showed a lower contribution from detritic Posidonia than in other areas. This could be a consequence of P. oceanica bed degradation in the studied area. The stable isotope approach did not reveal dietary differences between species, and the four holothurians species exhibited significant isotopic niche overlap. However, niche sizes differed between species showing more variable individual trophic diversity in some species (H. tubulosa and H. sanctori in Salamandre; H. forskali in Stidia). If niche segregation does occur, it is not in terms of general resource use. More likely, it would be the abundance of food sources, the different life habits and their micro-habitats that may explain their co-existence in the P. oceanica seagrass meadow.


Echinodermata; holothuroids; stable isotopes; Mediterranean

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