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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Adipose tissue fatty acids suggest spatial and temporal dietary differences in great cormorants of the Baltic Sea area

Tverin, Malin; Granroth, Janne; Abrahamsson, Alexander; Tang, Patrik; Pihlstrom, Henry; Lundstrom, Karl; Kakela, Reijo


Increased numbers of great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) in the Baltic Sea may have local impacts on fisheries and salmonid hatcheries. We studied spatial and temporal variability in cormorant diet, and potential consumption of hatchery salmonids, by analysing knee subcutaneous adipose tissue fatty acids (FA) of specimens (N = 77) collected along Swedish and Finnish coasts in different seasons during 2013-2017. The FA profiles of the subspecies sinensis and carbo were similar, with large individual variation. The proportion of C18 polyunsaturated FAs (PUFAs) was the largest in the north, whereas the proportion of C20-22 monounsaturated FAs (MUFAs) increased towards the south, reflecting diminishing freshwater and increasing marine food web characteristics towards the south. As an exception, the C20-22 MUFA percentage was high in sinensis collected in June 2017 from the northern Baltic Sea. The source of C20-22 MUFAs was probably hatchery salmonids, raised on ocean fish hatchery feed and released 10 days before, near the cormorant capture site. The FA profiles of northern and southern cormorants differed from each other both in early and late summer samples, suggesting spatially different diets. The largest individual variation was found in 22:1n-11, characteristic of ocean zooplanktivorous fish, and likely originating from Atlantic wild or Baltic Sea hatchery-reared fish. This study shows that adipose tissue FA profiles can be used as proxies for seabird diet monitoring and indicators of predation on hatchery-reared fish. Obtaining quantitative estimates on the proportions of dietary fish species requires future feeding experiments, allowing calibration between the FA compositions and diet.


Diet analysis; fatty acid; Phalacrocorax carbo; population management; seabird–fishery conflict

Published in

Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
2021, volume: 101, number: 1, article number: PII S0025315420001320

Authors' information

Tverin, Malin
University of Helsinki
Granroth, Janne
University of Helsinki
Abrahamsson, Alexander
University of Helsinki
Tang, Patrik
University of Bergen
Tang, Patrik
University of Helsinki
Pihlstrom, Henry
University of Helsinki
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Kakela, Reijo
University of Helsinki

UKÄ Subject classification

Fish and Aquacultural Science

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