Environmental and organismal predictors of intraspecific variation in the stoichiometry of a neotropical freshwater fish

Rana W. El-Sabaawi, Tyler J. Kohler, Eugenia Zandoná, Joseph Travis, Michael C. Marshall, Steven A. Thomas, David N. Reznick, Matthew Walsh, James F. Gilliam, Catherine Pringle, Alexander S. Flecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The elemental composition of animals, or their organismal stoichiometry, is thought to constrain their contribution to nutrient recycling, their interactions with other animals, and their demographic rates. Factors that affect organismal stoichiometry are generally poorly understood, but likely reflect elemental investments in morphological features and life history traits, acting in concert with the environmental availability of elements. We assessed the relative contribution of organismal traits and environmental variability to the stoichiometry of an insectivorous Neotropical stream fish, Rivulus hartii. We characterized the influence of body size, life history phenotype, stage of maturity, and environmental variability on organismal stoichiometry in 6 streams that differ in a broad suite of environmental variables. The elemental composition of R. hartii was variable, and overlapped with the wide range of elemental composition documented across freshwater fish taxa. Average %P composition was ~3.2%(±0.6), average %N~10.7%(±0.9), and average %C~41.7%(±3.1). Streams were the strongest predictor of organismal stoichiometry, and explained up to 18% of the overall variance. This effect appeared to be largely explained by variability in quality of basal resources such as epilithon N:P and benthic organic matter C:N, along with variability in invertebrate standing stocks, an important food source for R. hartii. Organismal traits were weak predictors of organismal stoichiometry in this species, explaining when combined up to 7% of the overall variance in stoichiometry. Body size was significantly and positively correlated with %P, and negatively with N:P, and C:P, and life history phenotype was significantly correlated with %C, %P, C:P and C:N. Our study suggests that spatial variability in elemental availability is more strongly correlated with organismal stoichiometry than organismal traits, and suggests that the stoichiometry of carnivores may not be completely buffered from environmental variability. We discuss the relevance of these findings to ecological stoichiometry theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere32713
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 6 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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