MEPS 322:239-248 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps322239

Metabolism of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) by juvenile Atlantic menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus

Richard W. Hill1,*, John W. H. Dacey2

1Department of Zoology, 203 Natural Science Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA
2Department of Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
*Email:

ABSTRACT: Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) synthesized by marine phytoplankton is the principal source of dimethylsulfide (DMS), an important climate-affecting gas. Prior research has demonstrated that grazing by invertebrate phytoplanktivores often affects the dynamics of DMS production from algal DMSP, but the effects of grazing by phytoplanktivorous fish have not previously been investigated. We studied the fate of algal DMSP following grazing by juvenile Atlantic menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus (13 cm fork length), which are generally viewed as the most specialized for phytoplanktivory of all postlarval fish. The menhaden were fed the dinoflagellate Prorocentrum micans, containing 1 to 2 pmol DMSP cell–1. During the first 24 h following ingestion of algal DMSP, almost none of the DMSP (ca. 1%) appeared as DMS. About 21% of ingested DMSP appeared in the water column as dissolved DMSP, peaking in concentration 9 to 11 h after feeding; in natural settings, this fraction would be poised for microbial metabolism, including potential conversion to DMS in surface waters from which outgassing to the atmosphere could occur. About 10% of ingested DMSP appeared in fecal pellets that tended to sink rapidly toward the bottom of the tanks. About 33% of ingested DMSP was deposited in the tissues of the menhaden, in particular in the red and white swimming muscles, in which we observed concentrations exceeding 0.7 µmol g–1. This final fraction could ultimately be metabolized to DMS, or it could be passed up food chains and possibly act as a taste factor in commercially important piscivores such as striped bass and bluefish. In total, our research demonstrated that at least two-thirds of the ingested DMSP ends up in tissues or feces or in solution in the ambient water in the first 24 h after feeding, and virtually none is converted to ambient DMS during that time period.


KEY WORDS: Dimethylsulfide · Dimethylsulfoniopropionate · Menhaden · DMS · DMSP · Brevoortia tyrannus · Taste factor · Phytoplanktivory


Full text in pdf format