Individual variation in resource use has often been ignored in ecological studies, but closer examination of individual patterns through time may reveal significant intrapopulation differences. Adult loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) are generalist carnivores with a wide geographical range, resulting in a broad isotopic niche. We microsampled scute, a persistent and continuously growing tissue, to examine long-term variation in resource use (up to 12 years) in 15 nesting loggerhead turtles. Using stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon, we examined the resource use patterns (integration of diet, habitat and geographical location) and demonstrate that individual loggerheads are long-term specialists within a generalist population. We present our results in the context of a conceptual model comparing isotopic niches in specialist and generalist populations. Individual consistency may have important ecological, evolutionary and conservation consequences, such as the reduction of intraspecific competition.
Keywords: isotopic niche, resource use, sea turtles, specialist, stable isotopes