Lipids in Arctic benthos: Does the fatty acid and alcohol composition reflect feeding and trophic interactions?

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Arctic benthic organisms of various taxa (Anthozoa, Polychaeta, Pantopoda, Crustacea, Echinodermata) were collected on the shelves off northeast Greenland, Spitsbergen and the western Barents Sea. Their fatty acid compositions were generally characterised by the predominance of the polyunsaturated fatty acids 20:5(n-3) and 22:6(n-3) together with the saturated fatty acid 16:0, which reflect the dominance of phospholipids. The fatty acid compositions of most benthic specimens were influenced by fatty acids of dietary origin. High amounts of the fatty acid 16: l(n-7), typical of diatoms, were found in different taxa from the northeast Greenland shelf. The 18:4(n-3) fatty acid, often typical of non-diatom input, was only dominant in Ophiopholis aculeata from the Spitsbergen shelf. In some taxa small amounts of wax esters were detected with alcohol moieties similar to those of the dominant Arctic copepods. The occurrence of intact wax esters, as well as the wax ester typical fatty acids 20:1(n-9) and 22:l(n-l 1), also suggested ingestion of large herbivorous copepods. An unusual fatty acid composition was found for most brittle stars, due to a ratio of the 18:1(n-9) and (n-7) fatty acid isomers below 1 with lowest ratios of 0.1. A similar low ratio was also detected in the polychacte Onuphis conchylega. The extremely low portions of the 18:1(n-9) fatty acid are striking, since carnivores are generally characterised by high levels of this fatty acid. A clear gradient from low 18:l(n-9) to (n-7) ratios in suspension feeders, via predatory decapods, to higher ratios in the scavenging amphipods was a major characteristic of the benthic species. Our investigations showed that lipid analyses can give important hints on trophic relationships of benthic species and may serve as means to establish the intensity of pelagic-benthic coupling.

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Graeve, M. , Kattner, G. and Piepenburg, D. (1997): Lipids in Arctic benthos: Does the fatty acid and alcohol composition reflect feeding and trophic interactions? , Polar Biology, 18 , pp. 53-61 .

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