Unusually high levels of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in whale sharks and reef manta rays

L. I. E. Couturier, C. A. Rohner, A. J. Richardson, S. J. Pierce, A. D. Marshall, F. R. A. Jaine, K. A. Townsend, M. B. Bennett, S. J. Weeks, P. D. Nichols

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29 Citations (Scopus)
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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1029-1034
Number of pages6
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2013. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • n-3 Fatty acids
  • arachidonic acid
  • planktivores
  • zooplankton
  • elasmobranch


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