Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 165, Issue 8, pp 628–639

Stratification and age-related differences in blubber fatty acids of the male harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

  • H. N. Koopman
  • S. J. Iverson
  • D. E. Gaskin
Original Paper


Fatty acid composition of blubber was determined at four body sites of 19 male harbour porpoises. A total of 65 fatty acids were quantified in each sample. The array of fatty acids contained in harbour porpoise blubber was similar to those found in other marine mammals. While chemical composition of total blubber was uniform over the body, with the exception of the caudal peduncle, vertical stratification was evident between the deep (inner) and superficial (outer) blubber layers. Fatty acids with chain lengths shorter than 18 carbons were present in significantly greater amounts in the outer blubber layer, while the longer-chain unsaturated fatty acids were more prevalent in the inner layer. This distribution suggests that the inner blubber layer is more active metabolically than the outer layer in terms of lipid deposition and mobilization. The degree of stratification between the two layers appears to increase with age, indicating a predictable turnover in the blubber layer of male porpoises. Harbour porpoise blubber contained high levels (2–27%) of isovaleric acid in the outer blubber layer, and these levels were positively correlated with age.

Key words

Blubber Fatty acids Isovaleric acid Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 



caudal dorsal body site


gas chromatograph


fatty acid(s)


International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry


polyunsaturated fatty acid(s)

II dor

II dorsal body site

III dor

III Dorsal body site

II Ven

II ventral body site


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. N. Koopman
    • 1
  • S. J. Iverson
    • 2
  • D. E. Gaskin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Canadian Institute of Fisheries TechnologyTechnical University of Nova ScotiaHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Department of BiologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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