In contrast to the large number of studies on the trophic significance of mangrove primary production to the aquatic foodweb, there have been few attempts to provide an overview of the relative importance of different primary carbon sources to invertebrates in the intertidal mangrove habitats. We determined carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios (delta(13)C, delta(15)N) in sediments, primary producers, and invertebrate species from an intertidal mangrove forest located along the southeast coast of India in order to determine the contribution of mangrove leaf litter and other carbon sources to the invertebrate community. Organic matter in sediments under the mangrove vegetation was characterized by relatively high delta(13)C values and low C:N ratios, indicating that mangrove-derived organic matter was not the principal source and that imported phytodetritus from the mangrove creeks and adjacent bay significantly contributed to the sediment organic matter pool. Invertebrates were found to display a wide range of delta(13)C values, most being 3-11parts per thousand enriched relative to the average mangrove leaf signal. The pulmonate gastropod Onchidium sp. showed unusually low delta(15)N values (-5.6+/-0.9parts per thousand), but further work is needed to adequately explain these data. A compilation of stable isotope data from various sources indicates that significant assimilation of mangrove-derived carbon is only detectable in a limited number of species, and suggests that local and imported algal sources are a major source of carbon for benthic invertebrate communities in intertidal mangrove forests. These results provide new insights into carbon utilization patterns in vegetated tropical intertidal habitats and show a striking similarity with results from temperate salt marsh ecosystems where local plant production has often been found to contribute little to intertidal foodwebs.