Ontogenetic and temporal variability in the fat content and fatty acid composition of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) from the Bay of Fundy, Canada

Issue:

Author(s): 
Lane, Hillary A., Andrew J. Westgate, and Heather N. Koopman
Cover date: 
2011
PDF: 
Pages: 
113–122
Abstract: 

Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) is an ecologically and economically valuable species in many food webs, yet surprisingly little is known about the variation in the nutritional quality of these fish. Atlantic herring collected from 2005 through 2008 from the Bay of Fundy, Canada, were examined for variability in their nutritional quality by using total lipid content (n=889) and fatty acid composition (n=551) as proxies for nutritional value. A significant positive relationship was found between fish length and total lipid content. Atlantic herring also had significantly different fatty acid signatures by age. Fish from 2005 had significantly lower total lipid content than fish from 2006 through 2008, and all years had significantly different fatty acid signatures. Summer fish were significantly fatter than winter fish and had significantly different fatty acid signatures. For all comparisons (ontogenetic, annual, and seasonal) percent concentrations of omega-3, -6, and long-chain monounsaturated fatty acids were the most important for distinguishing between the fatty acid signatures of fish. This study underscores the importance of quantifying variation in prey quality synoptically with prey quantity in food webs over ontogenetic and temporal scales when evaluating the effect of prey nutritional quality on predators and on modeling trophic dynamics.