, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 99-108

Importance of wax esters and other lipids in the marine food chain: Phytoplankton and copepods

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Wax esters, which function as reserve fuels, account for 25 to 40% of the lipid of the pelagic copepod Calanus helgolandicus (Copepoda, Calanoida). In laboratory experiments with these crustaceans, diatoms (Lauderia borealis, Chaetoceros curvisetus, and Skeletonema costatum) and dinoflagellates (Gymnodinium splendens), which contained no wax esters, were used as food. Changes in the food concentration affected both the amount of lipid and the composition of the wax esters. Since the fatty acids of the triglycerides and wax esters of C. helgolandicus resembled the dietary fatty acid composition, it appeared that copepods incorporated their dietary fatty acids largely unchanged into their wax esters. The polyunsaturated alcohols of the wax esters did not correspond in carbon numbers or degrees of unsaturation to the dietary fatty acids. We postulate two different metabolic pools to explain the origin of these long chain alcohols. The phospholipid fatty acids were not affected by changes in the amount or type of food, probably because of their structural function.

Communicated by J. Bunt, Miami