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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 373 - Feature article
Population dynamics in sea urchins Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis mediate ecosystem phase shifts between kelp beds and coralline barrens off Nova Scotia. Photo: Robert Scheibling

Kelly JR, Scheibling RE, Iverson SJ, Gagnon P


Fatty acid profiles in the gonads of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis on natural algal diets


Fatty acids (FAs) are used as dietary tracers in marine organisms, but their direct transfer from natural algal diets to invertebrate grazers is often assumed rather than explicitly tested.  Kelly and colleagues found that although sea urchins fed different algal species had distinct gonad FA compositions, these did not resemble the FA compositions of their algal diets.  Biosynthesis by urchins substantially influences gonad FA composition, limiting the utility of FAs as direct dietary tracers. However, FA composition of wild sea urchins from a kelp bed was similar to those fed kelp in the laboratory, and differed markedly from that of urchins from coralline barrens. FA analysis is therefore useful for distinguishing between urchins feeding in different habitats.


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