Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 283–288 | Cite as

Novel molecular fingerprinting of marine avian diet provides a tool for gaining insights into feeding ecology

  • T. A. BrownEmail author
  • A. W. J. Bicknell
  • S. C. Votier
  • S. T. Belt
Original Paper


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.


Highly branched isoprenoid (HBI) IP25 Food web Leach’s storm petrel Brunnich’s guillemot 



The authors would like to thank Plymouth University and the Seale Hayne Educational Trust for project funding. We also thank Greg Robertson at Canada Wildlife Services, Newfoundland for supplying the LSPs from the Canadian wreck and members of the public that kindly sent in corpses found in the UK. We are also grateful to Stig Falk-Petersen and the captain and crew of the R/V Helmer Hanssen and in particular Jorgen Berge for assistance in obtaining Brunnich’s guillemots. We also acknowledge the helpful comments of two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. A. Brown
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. W. J. Bicknell
    • 2
  • S. C. Votier
    • 2
  • S. T. Belt
    • 1
  1. 1.Biogeochemistry Research Centre, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental SciencesPlymouth UniversityPlymouth, DevonUK
  2. 2.Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Marine Science and EngineeringPlymouth UniversityPlymouth, DevonUK

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