Novel molecular fingerprinting of marine avian diet provides a tool for gaining insights into feeding ecology
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- Brown, T.A., Bicknell, A.W.J., Votier, S.C. et al. Environ Chem Lett (2013) 11: 283. doi:10.1007/s10311-013-0402-x
C25 highly branched isoprenoids (HBIs) are produced by a relatively small number of diatom species, yet are common constituents of almost all marine environments. Previously, detection of HBIs in a few aquatic Arctic animals has indicated the potential use of these lipids for providing novel ecological information. In the current study, analysis of lipid extracts of livers from Leach’s storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) and Brunnich’s guillemot (Uria lomvia) facilitated identification and quantification of HBI isomers. HBIs were found in the tissues of all specimens with clear differences in the abundances and distributions of individual HBI isomers both between Atlantic as well as Arctic birds. These differences are consistent with contrasting oceanographic regimes and suggests that regional differences in HBIs are reflected in the tissues of consumers. Tissue-specific assessment of HBI distributions has also revealed the presence of these lipids in muscle for the first time. This study represents the first report of HBI lipids in birds and provides evidence that these lipids are transferred across trophic levels and extends their potential use as chemical tracers beyond the ecology of aquatic organisms.