MEPS - Vol. 315 - Feature article

Walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma and capelin Mallotus villosus differ both in average total lipid content and in population-level responses to climate regime shifts Photo: Mayumi Arimitsu

Litzow MA, Bailey KM, Prahl FG, Heintz R

 

Climate regime shifts and reorganization of fish communities: the essential fatty acid limitation hypothesis

 

Climate regime shifts may cause rapid changes in species composition of marine communities, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Michael Litzow and co-workers demonstrate that lipid-rich and lipid-poor fish species follow opposite trends in abundance following regime shifts. They also show that total lipid content in fish is positively correlated with the content of 2 physiologically important essential fatty acids (EFAs), and they propose that climate-forced changes in EFA production result in differential effects on lipid-rich and lipid-poor fishes. EFAs are produced only by plants and must be obtained by animals through the diet, and the hypothesis presented in this study indicates that EFA availability may structure aquatic ecosystems.

 

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