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Unusually High Levels of n-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Whale Sharks and Reef Manta Rays

Couturier, L. I. E., Rohner, C. A., Richardson, A. J., Pierce, S. J., Marshall, A. D., Jaine, F. R. A., Townsend, K. A., Bennett, M. B., Weeks, S. J., Nichols, P. D.
Lipids 2013 v.48 no.10 pp. 1029-1034
Crustacea, Rhincodon typus, animals, arachidonic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, muscle tissues, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, zooplankton
Fatty acid (FA) signature analysis has been increasingly used to assess dietary preferences and trophodynamics in marine animals. We investigated FA signatures of connective tissue of the whale shark Rhincodon typus and muscle tissue of the reef manta ray Manta alfredi. We found high levels of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), dominated by arachidonic acid (20:4n-6; 12–17 % of total FA), and comparatively lower levels of the essential n-3 PUFA—eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3; ~1 %) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3; 3–10 %). Whale sharks and reef manta rays are regularly observed feeding on surface aggregations of coastal crustacean zooplankton during the day, which generally have FA profiles dominated by n-3 PUFA. The high levels of n-6 PUFA in both giant elasmobranchs raise new questions about the origin of their main food source.