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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 467:263-276 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09934

Effects of phylogeny and prey type on fatty acid calibration coefficients in three pinniped species: implications for the QFASA dietary quantification technique

David A. S. Rosen1,*, Dominic J. Tollit1,2 

1Marine Mammal Research Unit, University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
2Present address: SMRU Ltd, 3069 6th Avenue West, Vancouver V6K 1X4, Canada

ABSTRACT: Quantitative fatty acid signature analysis (QFASA) has been proposed as a technique for determining the long-term diet of animals. The method compares the fatty acid (FA) profiles of predators and potential prey items to estimate relative prey intake. We tested the assumptions of a key step in QFASA, the correction of predator FA signatures for metabolic processes through sets of calibration coefficients (CCs). We conducted long-term controlled feeding studies with captive Steller sea lions consuming herring and eulachon and northern fur seals consuming herring. We compared the results with data from harbour seals eating herring to evaluate the effects of phylogeny and prey type on individual CCs. Even within the limited extended dietary FA subset recommended for use by other researchers, we found that at least 41% of the CCs differed by family (otariid vs. phocid seals) and 58% differed by predator species (sea lion vs. fur seal), suggesting that CCs may be highly species-specific. We also found that 64% of the CCs differed by prey type (sea lions consuming herring vs. eulachon), which raises some fundamental implementation issues. We also found significant differences in diet predictions when the herring- and eulachon-derived sets of CCs were applied to an actual multi-species diet. CCs are presently used as a simple mathematical attempt to describe potentially complex biochemistry. The results of this study raise questions regarding the validity of using CCs derived from an alternative predator species, and highlight some fundamental issues regarding QFASA methodology that need to be addressed through further controlled studies.


KEY WORDS: Fatty acids · Quantitative fatty acid signature analysis · QFASA · Pinnipeds · Otariid · Diet


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Cite this article as: Rosen DAS, Tollit DJ (2012) Effects of phylogeny and prey type on fatty acid calibration coefficients in three pinniped species: implications for the QFASA dietary quantification technique. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 467:263-276. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09934

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