MEPS 531:277-292 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11292

Lipids as a proxy for larval starvation and feeding condition in small pelagic fish: a field approach on match-mismatch effects on Baltic sprat

Janna Peters1,2,*, Rabea Diekmann1,3, Catriona Clemmesen4, Wilhelm Hagen

1Center of Marine and Climate Research, Institute of Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, University of Hamburg, Grosse Elbstrasse 133, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
2Marine Zoology, BreMarE - Bremen Marine Ecology, University of Bremen, PO Box 330440, 28334 Bremen, Germany
3Thünen Institute for Fisheries Ecology, Palmaille 9, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
4Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research (GEOMAR), Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Sprat Sprattus sprattus larvae were used as model organisms to evaluate whether larval lipids reflect in situ feeding conditions and can thus identify match-mismatch situations. In detail, we determined larval lipid content, growth rates based on RNA:DNA ratios, and fatty acid (FA) composition during the spawning season in the Central Baltic Sea, and evaluated these in light of feeding, mortality and recruitment (which were determined in parallel within the project ‘GLOBEC Germany’). Based on the opposing trend of RNA:DNA and lipid content, as well as on previous observations, we hypothesized that lipid content and current feeding conditions are largely uncoupled in the early life stages of sprat due to reduced lipid anabolism. However, lipids still provide information in several ways: (1) segmented generalised linear models proved to be a suitable tool for identifying phases of lipid catabolism during development, with the slope reflecting size-specific environmental starvation pressure. This method detected a previously identified mismatch situation with suitable prey in the early spawning season, which increased mortality of larger larvae. (2) Estimated starvation resistance, a proxy that accounts for temperature- and size-dependent metabolism, reflected the likelihood of near future starvation of individual larvae. (3) Principal component analyses on FAs identified monthly differences in diet composition. Biomarkers indicated a dinoflagellate and/or microbial loop based carbon flux to the larvae. (4) Regression analyses revealed lower docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels in spring, but no obvious effect on growth. Food quality was generally high, and its impact on larval survival was less evident than that of prey size suitability.


KEY WORDS: Early life history · Condition · Recruitment · Lipids · Growth · Food quality · Essential fatty acids · Trophic markers


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Cite this article as: Peters J, Diekmann R, Clemmesen C, Hagen W (2015) Lipids as a proxy for larval starvation and feeding condition in small pelagic fish: a field approach on match-mismatch effects on Baltic sprat. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 531:277-292. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11292

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