Marine Biology

, Volume 154, Issue 6, pp 1053–1065 | Cite as

Spatio-temporal variability in fatty acid trophic biomarkers in stomach contents and muscle of Iberian sardine (Sardina pilchardus) and its relationship with spawning

  • Susana GarridoEmail author
  • Rui Rosa
  • Radhouan Ben-Hamadou
  • Maria Emilia Cunha
  • Maria Alexandra Chícharo
  • Carl D. van der Lingen
Original Paper


Temporal variation in the fatty acid (FA) composition of stomach contents of Iberian sardines was compared to the relative contribution to dietary carbon made by different prey types for fish from two areas off Portugal. The effect of the FA content of the diet on sardine muscle FA composition was also studied, aiming at (1) analysing if FA biomarkers can be used as a complementary technique for the study of sardine diet and (2) to relate spatial and temporal variations of prey FA content with sardine condition and reproduction. Significant spatial differences in the FA composition of sardine diet occurred with concentrations of n-3 polyunsaturated FA, namely eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA, 20:5n-3] and linolenic acid 18:3n-3, being significantly higher in the diet of sardines from the west coast, whilst the diet of sardines from the south coast was richer in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), namely the carnivory biomarker oleic acid 18:1n-9. These results are in agreement with the higher contribution made by diatoms and dinoflagellates to the diet of sardines off the west coast. Spatial variation in sardine dietary FA was also detected in their muscle composition, specifically for EPA, and the eicosapentaenoic/docosahexaenoic acid and (n-3)/(n-6) ratios, which were higher in sardines from the west coast. No difference in FA composition was detected between sexes, and the seasonal variability in sardine total FA concentration was primarily related to the seasonality of spawning. Sardines accumulate high concentrations of FAs during the resting stage of reproduction when the feeding intensity is similar or lower to that observed during the spawning season. Additionally, sardines show a high selective retention of MUFA and polyunsaturated FA (PUFA) throughout the year except at the beginning of the spawning season, when these FAs are largely invested in the formation of the gonads. Therefore, temporal and regional differences of prey environments are strong enough to be reflected in fish body composition, namely on the accumulation of essential FAs, which can have a strong impact on reproduction success for this species.


Phytoplankton Fatty Acid Composition West Coast Dinoflagellate South Coast 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was made under the auspices of the IPIMAR Programme PELAGICOS, funded by the Portuguese Ministry of Science (MLE 013/2000). S.G. o is grateful to the National Agriculture and Fisheries Research Institute (IPIMAR) for its financial support in the form of a grant within the research program PELAGICOS and the project Neo-MAv, co-financed by FEDER and the EU. The authors are in debt to the team of the National Sampling Program that routinely perform the sardine biological sampling and to L. Nunes for providing the conditions for the FAs analysis at the IPIMAR.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susana Garrido
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rui Rosa
    • 1
  • Radhouan Ben-Hamadou
    • 2
  • Maria Emilia Cunha
    • 3
  • Maria Alexandra Chícharo
    • 2
  • Carl D. van der Lingen
    • 4
  1. 1.Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e das Pescas (INIAP/IPIMAR)LisbonPortugal
  2. 2.EcoReach Research GroupUniversidade do Algarve, FCMA, CCMARFaroPortugal
  3. 3.INIAP/IPIMAR, CRIP SulOlhaoPortugal
  4. 4.Marine and Coastal ManagementCape TownSouth Africa

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