Polar Biology

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 571–580 | Cite as

Exceptional long-term starvation ability and sites of lipid storage of the Arctic pteropod Clione limacina

  • Marco Böer
  • Martin Graeve
  • Gerhard Kattner
Original Paper


The Arctic pteropod Clione limacina was collected in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard, in mid June 2004, to study the lipid metabolism within the sites of lipid storage structures during long-term starvation. Animals survived in an aquarium without any food for nearly 1 year (356 days). Size, number of lipid droplets, dry and lipid mass, lipid class and fatty acid compositions of C. limacina were determined and separately analysed for the digestive gland and the remaining integument. During the starvation period, animals shrunk from 22.4 to 12 mm in length on average, and the number of lipid droplets decreased from 1,600 to 1,000 per animal. Dry mass (DM) and total lipid mass both dropped by about 80% from day 200 to the end. The lipid content as percentage DM of the total organism did not decrease significantly ranging from 43.8 to 32.3%DM. The lipid content of the trunk was moderate with about 20%DM. The digestive gland was very rich in lipids with more than 70%DM throughout the experiment and is the major site of lipid metabolism and storage. Triacylglycerols (TAG) decreased, in the total organism, from high initial levels of 62.6 to 43% of total lipid at the end. In contrast, the proportions of 1-O-alkyldiacylglycerols [diacylglycerol ethers (DAGE)] remained almost constant, varying between 20.4 and 28.4%. In the digestive gland, TAG ranged from 60.3 to 64.8% and DAGE from 23.6 to 32.2% from day 200 to the end of the experiment. TAG and DAGE of the trunk were most likely located in the lipid droplets and were almost depleted at the end of starvation. Besides their function as lipid deposit DAGE may also act as protecting substance against bacterial and fungal infections. During the first 200 days of starvation, the fatty acid compositions showed only small variations. Thereafter, fatty acids typical for storage lipids decreased in all body compartments. In adaptation to long periods of food scarcity, C. limacina has evolved various strategies as body shrinkage, utilisation of body constituents not essential for survival, a very low metabolism and slow lipid consumption.


Clione limacina Arctic Starvation experiment Lipid storage Digestive gland Lipid droplets 



We are grateful to the staff of Kings Bay AS at Ny-Ålesund for their professional support during the laboratory experiments and to the divers C. Wanke, M. Schwanitz, A. Chapman and C. Daniel for sampling of Clione limacina specimens. We thank S. Damm for transportation of samples to Bremerhaven.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany

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