, Volume 784, Issue 1, pp 155–170 | Cite as

Alteration of essential fatty acids in secondary consumers across a gradient of cyanobacteria

  • Trevor A. Gearhart
  • Katie Ritchie
  • Evan Nathan
  • Jason D. StockwellEmail author
  • Jana Kraft
Primary Research Paper


Cyanobacteria blooms pose an increasing threat to ecosystem services. Consequently, understanding their impacts on ecosystem function is important. Cyanobacteria are poor producers of long-chain essential fatty acids (LC-EFA; eicosapentaenoic, docosahexaenoic, and arachidonic acids) and are inadequate for primary consumer growth and reproduction. Higher-level consumers such as planktivorous fishes are hypothesized to be negatively impacted through disruption of LC-EFA availability and transfer up the food web. We tested this hypothesis by comparing fatty acids in yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and white perch (Morone americana) across a gradient of cyanobacteria densities spanning four sites in Lake Champlain and Shelburne Pond, Vermont, USA. Phytoplankton community composition and fatty acid content of seston and fish tissue (liver and muscle) were collected in June, August, and October 2013. Yellow perch liver and muscle tissue increased in percent composition of linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid and decreased in LC-EFA with increased cyanobacteria. Total EFA and arachidonic acid in white perch muscle were negatively related to cyanobacteria. White perch liver did not show any relationship between EFA and cyanobacteria. We conclude that both fish species experienced altered EFA coinciding with cyanobacteria blooms, consistent with disruption of LC-EFA transfer across multiple trophic levels.


Eutrophication Muscle Liver Seston Yellow perch White perch 



Fish samples were collected in accordance with University of Vermont Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee guidelines (IACUC 13-051). We thank Melissa Bainbridge, Katie Bryan, Emily Berry, and Nora Hill for their assistance with sample collection and preparation. We would like to thank Captain Steve Cluett of the RV Melosira for always going the extra step and to make sure sample collections were as successful as possible. Support provided by Vermont EPSCoR with funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant EPS-1101317, a NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates award to EN (Award DBI-1358838), and a University of Vermont Office of Undergraduate Research Summer Mini-Grant to KR.

Supplementary material

10750_2016_2864_MOESM1_ESM.docx (72 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 72 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor A. Gearhart
    • 1
    • 5
  • Katie Ritchie
    • 2
    • 6
  • Evan Nathan
    • 3
    • 7
  • Jason D. Stockwell
    • 4
    Email author
  • Jana Kraft
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Vermont, Marsh Life Sciences BuildingBurlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Animal and Veterinary SciencesUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Studies ProgramSkidmore CollegeSaratoga SpringsUSA
  4. 4.Rubenstein Ecosystem Science LaboratoryUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  5. 5.Vermont EPSCoRUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  6. 6.College of Health & Rehabilitation SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  7. 7.Success Academy Hell’s KitchenNew YorkUSA

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