Gonatus fabricii is the most abundant cephalopod species in Arctic waters, and the only squid that completes its entire life cycle there. In order to understand its ecological role in the Arctic, we conducted stable isotope analyses of beaks from all ontogenetic groups from west and east Greenland waters and the Barents Sea, complemented with morphological data. The values of both delta C-13 and delta N-15 of G. fabricii were not related to sex. Values of delta C-13 showed a small ontogenetic increase, and these values were geographically distinct, with highest levels found in the western part of the study area. Values of delta N-15 showed a dramatic ontogenetic increase (i.e. 10.0 parts per thousand delta N-15; 2.6 trophic levels), from epipelagic juvenile forms to large bathypelagic adults, without significant geographical variation. The observed maximum value of delta N-15 (14.9 parts per thousand) is the highest ever recorded in cephalopod beaks. The estimated trophic level (up to 5.1) compares only to top vertebrate predators in the Arctic: large piscivorous fishes, seals and toothed whales or large benthic scavenging fishes. Thus, G. fabricii is a top invertebrate predator in the Arctic, with the widest isotopic niche observed to date for any species there. Among cephalopods its trophic level is only exceeded by its Antarctic congener, G. antarcticus, and by the Antarctic colossal squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni. Thus, polar squids occupy higher trophic positions than do squids living in warmer regions. Finally, our study shows that G. fabricii descends to bathypelagic layers during ontogenesis, continuously increasing its trophic level by changing prey types and sizes, and avoiding predation pressure.
Ontogenetic changes in stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) values in squid Gonatus fabricii (Cephalopoda) reveal its important ecological role in the Arctic