Jérôme Spitz

Post Doctoral Fellow
Tel: 604.822.9111
Fax: 604.822.8180
E-mail: j.spitz@oceans.ubc.ca

Education: BSc Biology (University of La Rochelle, France); MSc Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences (EPHE, France); PhD Ecology (University of La Rochelle, France)

Research Interests: Foraging ecology of top predator; Nutrition & metabolism physiology; Molecular ecology; Marine mammals-fisheries interactions; Ichthyology.

Research: My research is primarily focussed on the foraging of marine top predators—especially marine mammals. I seek to expand on the simple taxonomic description of diets to understand how prey characteristics could influence the foraging strategies of marine mammals. I have been using structural characteristics or functional traits of predators (such as mitochondrial density in muscle, lipids reserves in muscle or maximum speed) to explain some aspects of predator-prey relationships. My research in functional foraging ecology ranges from genes to ecosystems and contributes to the monitoring and conservation of marine mammals, as well as fisheries management.

Current projects:

Steller sea lion

1. Genomics response to nutritional stress. Reductions in the quality and quantity of prey available to marine mammals can cause nutritional stress and negatively affect population numbers. Nutritional stress is believed by many to explain the decline of Steller sea lions, but direct evidence supporting or refuting this hypothesis has been unobtainable due to a lack of appropriate tools. However, recent molecular studies on terrestrial mammals have shown that nutritional stress can be identified from differential gene expression. This approach has not yet been applied to marine mammals. We are developing and validating this method for identifying nutritionally stressed populations of marine mammals by obtaining blood samples from captive Steller sea lions under different experimental feeding conditions. We will sequence nuclear candidate genes and determine their differential expression using quantitative PCR to identify gene expression profiles that indicate nutritional stress. This will be the first study to develop an indicator of nutritional stress in marine mammals based on gene expression, and the first to develop an innovative molecular tool to monitor pinniped colonies and their exposure to nutritional stress. Such an approach has the potential to be implemented for cetaceans and seabird populations, and stands to directly contribute to the conservation of large marine predators and the management of fisheries.

Common dolphin

2. Prey profitability in marine ecosystems: Collapses of high-energy dense concentrations of prey species induce negative effects on populations of top predators. Knowledge of prey quality appears to be crucial in ecosystem modelling and management. The aim of this research is to provide data on the quality of forage species in terms of energy density and proximate composition. I am also attempting to integrate other variables to fully evaluate the profitability of given prey to a given predator, such as prey swimming speed, dispersion, encounter rate, and non-energy-related nutritional aspects of the diet.

Fish otolith

3. Diets of marine top predators: The observed diets of marine predators reflect a combination of resource availability and foraging strategies. Resources availability is determined by a combination of spatially-defined characteristics of the environment such as depth and slope, and more mobile or temporary features such as a wide variety of hydrological processes. The latter, foraging strategies, is determined by costs and benefits associated with foraging that are linked to limitations in physiological, physical or social functioning. Thus, knowing the diets of top predators is central to better understanding their ecology and some of the threats they may face. My research contributes to increasing knowledge about the prey preferences of large marine predators, which I have been pursuing using stomach or scat contents and stable isotopes analyses on various predators such as the harbour seal, bottlenose dolphin, large fish and deep-shark.

nserc-logo noaa cnrs logo_ULR


  • Spitz J., Ridoux V. & Brind’Amour A., 2014. Let’s go beyond taxonomy in diet description: testing a trait-based approach to prey-predator relationships. Journal of Animal Ecology, 83: 1137–1148. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12218
  • Chouvelon T., Cherel Y., Simon-Bouhet B., Spitz J. & Bustamante P., 2014. Size-related patterns in stable isotopes and mercury concentrations in fish help refining marine ecosystem indicators and evidence distinct management units for hake in the north-eastern Atlantic. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 71(5): 1073-1087.
  • Mèndez-Fernandez P., Webster L., Chouvelon T., Bustamante P., Ferreira M., González A., López A., Moffat C.F., Pierce G.J., Read F., Russell M., Santos M.B., Spitz J., Vingada J.V., Caurant F., 2014. An assessment of contaminant concentrations in toothed whale species of the NW Iberian Peninsula: Part I. Persistent organic pollutants. Science of the Total Environment, 484: 196-205.
  • Mèndez-Fernandez P., Webster L., Chouvelon T., Bustamante P., Ferreira M., González A., López A., Moffat C.F., Pierce G.J., Read F., Russell M., Santos M.B., Spitz J., Vingada J.V., Caurant F., 2014. An assessment of contaminant concentrations in toothed whale species of the NW Iberian Peninsula: Part II. Trace element concentrations. Science of the Total Environment, 484: 206-217.
  • Mèndez-Fernandez P., Pierce G.J., Bustamante P., Chouvelon T., Ferreira M., Gonzales A., López A., Read F., Santos M.B., Spitz J., Vingada J.V. & Caurant F. 2013. Ecological niche segregation among five toothed whale species off the NW Iberian Peninsula using ecological tracers as multi-approach. Marine Biology, 160 (11): 2825-2840. doi: 10.1007/s00227-013-2274-9.
  • Spitz J. & Jouma’a J., 2013. Variability in energy density of forage fish from the Bay of Biscay (NE Atlantic): reliability of functional grouping based on prey quality. Journal of Fish Biology, 82(6): 2147–2152.
  • Spitz J., Chouvelon T., Cardinaud M., Kostecki C. & Lorance P., 2013. Prey preferences of adult sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax in the north-eastern Atlantic: implications for by-catch of common dolphin Delphinus delphis. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 70(2): 452–461.
  • Spitz J., Trites A.W., Becquet V., Brind’Amour A., Cherel Y., Galois R. & Ridoux V., 2012. Cost of living dictates what whales, dolphins and porpoises eat: the importance of prey quality on predator foraging strategies. PLoS ONE, 7(11):
  • Lassalle G., Gascuel D., Le Loc’h F., Lobry J., Pierce G. J., Ridoux, V., Santos M. B., Spitz J. & Niquil N., 2012. An ecosystem approach for the assessment of fisheries impacts on marine top predators: the Bay of Biscay case study. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 69(6): 925-938.
  • Chouvelon T., Spitz J., Caurant F., Mèndez Fernandez P., Autier J., Lassus-Débat A. & Bustamante P., 2012. Enhanced bioaccumulation of mercury in deep-sea fauna from the Bay of Biscay (North-East Atlantic) revealed by analysis of stable isotope signatures. Deep Sea Research Part 1: Oceanographic Research Papers, 65; 113–124.
  • Quéro J.C. & Spitz J., 2012. First record of Aulotrachichthys sajademalensis (Kotlyar, 1979) from Reunion Island (Indian Ocean). Cybium, 36(4): 589-590.
  • Mèndez-Fernandez P., Bustamante P., Bode A., Chouvelon T., Ferreira M., López A., Pierce G.J., Santos M.B., Spitz J., Vingada J.V. & Caurant F., 2012. Foraging ecology of five toothed whale species in the Northwest Iberian Peninsula, inferred using δ13C and δ15N isotopic signatures. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 413: 150–158.
  • Chouvelon T., Spitz J., Caurant F., Mèndez-Fernandez P., Chappuis A., Laugier F., Le Goff E. & Bustamante P., 2012. Revisiting the use of δ15N in meso-scale studies of marine food webs by considering spatio-temporal variations in stable isotopic signatures – The case of an open ecosystem: The Bay of Biscay (North-East Atlantic). Progress in Oceanography, 101(1): 92-105.
  • Spitz J., Cherel Y., Bertin S., Kiszka J., Dewez A. & Ridoux V., 2011. Prey preferences among the community of deep-diving odontocetes from the Bay of Biscay, northeast Atlantic. Deep Sea Research Part 1: Oceanographic Research Papers, 58(3): 273-282.
  • Lassalle G., Lobry J., Le Loc’h F., Bustamante P., Certain G., Delmas D., Dupuy C., Hily C., Labry C., Le Pape O., Marquis E., Petitgas P., Pusineri C., Ridoux V., Spitz J., Niquil N., 2011. Lower trophic levels and detrital biomass controlled the Bay of Biscay continental food web: implications for ecosystem management. Progress in Oceanography, 91(4): 561-575.
  • Quéro J.C., Spitz J. & Vayne J.J., 2011. The volcanic eruption hunts out Neocentropogon profundus (Tetrarogidae, Scorpaenoidei) from Reunion Island. Cybium, 35(2): 99-103.
  • Chouvelon T., Spitz J., Caurant F., Mendez-Fernandez P., Cherel Y. & Bustamante P., 2011. Species and ontogenic-related differences in d13C and d15N values and Hg and Cd concentrations of cephalopods: implication for their use as ecological tracers. Marine Ecology Progess Series, 433: 107-120.
  • Spitz J., Mourocq E., Leauté J.-P., Quéro J.-C. & Ridoux V., 2010. Prey selection by the common dolphin: fulfilling high energy requirements with high quality food. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 390(2): 73-77.
  • Spitz J., Mourocq E., Shoen V. & Ridoux V., 2010. Proximate composition and energy content of forage species from the Bay of Biscay: high or low quality food? ICES Journal of Marine Science, 67: 909-915.
  • Spitz J., Mariotti L., Caillot E., Ridoux V. & Elder J.F., 2010. The diet of the harbour seal at the southern limit of its European range. NAMMCO Scientific Publication, 8: 313-328.
  • Quéro J.C., Spitz J. & Vayne J.J., 2009. Chromis durvillei a new species of Pomacentridae (Actinopterygii: Perciformes) from Reunion Island and first record of Chromis axillaris (Benett, 1831). Cybium, 33(4): 321-326.
  • Quéro J.C., Spitz J. & Vayne J.J., 2009. Argyripnus hulleyi a new species of Sternoptychidae (Stomiiformes) from Reunion Island (Indian Ocean). Cybium, 33(1): 39-43.
  • Quéro J.C., Spitz J. & Vayne J.J., 2009. Symphysanoson pitondelafournaisei a new species of Symphysanodontidae (Perciformes) from Reunion Island. Cybium, 33(1): 73-77.
  • Cherel Y., Ridoux V., Spitz J. & Richard P., 2009. Stable isotopes document the trophic structure of a deep-sea cephalopod assemblage including giant octopod and giant squid. Biology Letters, 5: 364-367.
  • Barnes C., Bethea D.M., Brodeur R.D., Spitz J., Ridoux V., Pusineri C., Chase B.C., Hunsicker M.E., Juanes F., Conover D.O., Kellermann A., Lancaster J., Ménard F., Bard F.-X., Munk P., Pinnegar J.K., Scharf F.S., Rountree R.A., Stergiou K.I., Sassa C., Sabates A. & Jennings S., 2008. Predator and prey body sizes in marine food webs. Ecology,89(3): 881.
  • Meynier L., Pusineri C., Spitz J., Santos M.B., Pierce G.J. & Ridoux V., 2008. Intraspecific dietary variation in the short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis in the Bay of Biscay: importance of fat fish. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 354: 277-287.
  • Pusineri C., Magnin V., Meynier L., Spitz J., Hassani S. & Ridoux V., 2007. Food and feeding ecology of the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) in the oceanic northeast Atlantic and comparison with its diet in neritic areas. Marine Mammal Science, 23: 30-47.
  • Spitz J., Quéro J.C. & Vayne J.J., 2007. Contribution to the study of the genus Pseudoscopelus (Chiasmodontidae), with a new species, P. pierbartus sp. nov., two junior synonyms and a key to the valid species. Cybium, 31(3): 333-339.
  • Ridoux V., Spitz J., Vincent C. & Walton M., 2007. Grey seal diet at the southern limit of its European distribution: combining dietary analyses and fatty acid profiles. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of United Kingdom, 87: 255-264.
  • Spitz J., Rousseau Y. & Ridoux V., 2006. Diet overlap between harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin: an argument in favour of interference competition for food? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 70: 259-270.
  • Spitz J., Richard E., Meynier L., Pusineri C. & Ridoux V., 2006. Dietary plasticity of the oceanic striped dolphin, Stenella coeruleoalba, in the neritic Bay of Biscay. Journal of Sea Research, 55: 309-320.
  • Lahaye V., Bustamante P., Spitz, J., Das K., Meynier, L., Magnin V., Dabin W. & Caurant F., 2005. Long-term dietary segregation of common dolphins Delphinus delphis in the Bay of Biscay, determined using cadmium as an ecological tracer. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 305: 275-285.
  • Pusineri C., Vasseur Y., Hassani S., Magnin V., Meynier L., Spitz J. & Ridoux V., 2005. Food and feeding ecology of juvenile albacore, Thunnus alalunga, off the Bay of Biscay: a case study. ICES Journal of marine science, 61: 116-122.
  • Ridoux V., Lafontaine L., Bustamante P., Caurant F., Dabin W., Delcroix C., Hassani S., Meynier L., Pereira Da Silva V., Simonin S., Robert M., Spitz J. & Van Canneyt O., 2004. The impact of the Erika oil spill on pelagic and coastal marine mammals: combining demographic, ecological trace element and biomarker evidences. Aquatic Living Ressources, 17: 379-387.