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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Fatty acid accumulation in feeding types of a natural freshwater fish population

Scharnweber, Kristin; Chaguaceda, Fernando; Eklov, Peter


Fatty acids are widely used to study trophic interactions in food web assemblages. Generally, it is assumed that there is a very small modification of fatty acids from one trophic step to another, making them suitable as trophic biomarkers. However, recent literature provides evidence that many fishes possess genes encoding enzymes with a role in bioconversion, thus the capability for bioconversion might be more widespread than previously assumed. Nonetheless, empirical evidence for biosynthesis occurring in natural populations remains scarce. In this study, we investigated different feeding types of perch (Perca fluviatilis) that are specialized on specific resources with different levels of highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs), and analyzed the change between HUFA proportions in perch muscle tissue compared to their resources. Perch showed matching levels to their resources for EPA, but ARA and especially DHA were accumulated. Compound-specific stable isotope analyses helped us to identify the origin of HUFA carbon. Our results suggest that perch obtain a substantial amount of DHA via bioconversion when feeding on DHA-poor benthic resources. Thus, our data indicate the capability of bioconversion of HUFAs in a natural freshwater fish population.


Fatty acid conversion; Compound-specific stable isotope analysis; Docosahexaenoic acid; Bioconversion; Trophic upgrading

Published in

2021, volume: 196, number: 1, pages: 53-63
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Scharnweber, Kristin
University of Potsdam
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Uppsala University
Eklov, Peter
Uppsala University

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