Fatty acid profiles of lake trout reveal the importance of lipid content for interpreting trophic relationships within and across lakes

Austin Happel, Craig P. Stafford, Jacques Rinchard, Sergiusz Czesny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Fatty acid profiles increasingly are being used to quantify foraging patterns of consumers, but the associated interpretation may vary with the tissue type and its lipid content. For salmonids, lipid deposits can be found in both dorsal and ventral (“belly flap”) areas of muscle tissues. However, it is uncertain whether belly flap and dorsal muscle fatty acid profiles are similar in natural populations of fish. We examined how fatty acid profiles of belly flap compared to those of dorsal muscle and the consequent impacts on dietary inferences. Fatty acid profiles were derived from lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) caught in five North American lakes: Champlain, Flathead, Michigan, Ontario, and Swan. Fatty acid profiles were most similar between tissues when lipid content of muscle was > ~10%, the threshold below which similarities decreased and thus increasingly affected dietary inference. Some fatty acids commonly used as trophic indicators preferentially accrued in one tissue over the other depending on lipid content of the tissues. Regardless of tissue type, fatty acid profiles were specific to each lake indicating that food web structures were distinctive over a broad geographic range. Fatty acid profiles of tissues from lakes Michigan and Ontario were highly similar, so were those from Flathead and Swan lakes, whereas those from Lake Champlain were distinct, having comparatively high proportions of 18:1n-9. We conclude that lipid storage areas like belly flaps likely provide a more accurate signal than muscle when using fatty acids to investigate dietary patterns, particularly when muscle lipid levels are low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-197
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Volume46
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Fatty acids
  • Food webs
  • Lake trout
  • Ontogenetic diet shift
  • Tissue type

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology

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