Fatty acid composition of the blubber in white whales (Delphinapterus leucas)
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Fatty acid (FA) composition of the blubber in free-ranging white whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from Svalbard's waters was determined and compared with the fatty acid composition of potential prey species in an attempt to assess diet. This methodology is based on the common assumption that unique arrays of FAs found within groups of organisms are transferred, largely unaltered, up marine food chains and thus may be useful for assessment of diet composition. Complete-column blubber biopsies were sampled from white whales (n=7) during the summers of 1996 and 1997. All captured animals were adult males. FAs were extracted from 2–4 replicates taken from an area about 10 cm in front of the mid-dorsal ridge. FA data from a total of 12 potential prey species from the Svalbard area were compared to the white-whale blubber samples. Twenty-two FAs were consistently found in relative amounts >0.5% of the total FA composition in white whales. These FAs accounted for 94–96% of the total FAs present. The blubber was composed almost entirely of triacylglycerols. The major saturated FAs were 14:0 and 16:0; 16:1(n-7), 18:1(n-9) and 20:1(n-9) were the major monounsaturated FAs and 20:5(n-3) and 22:6(n-3) were the major polyunsaturated FAs. Sixteen of the 22 FAs consistently found in the white-whale blubber were also found in considerable amounts (>0.5% of total FAs) in most of the potential species. Principal Component Analysis run on these 16 FAs suggests that polar cod (Boreogadus saida) had the most similar FA composition to the white-whale blubber, followed by capelin (Mallotus villosus), the copepod Calanus hyperboreus and the shrimp Pandalus borealis.
KeywordsFatty Acid Composition Total Fatty Acid Potential Species Total Fatty Acid Composition Similar Fatty Acid
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