[MARMAM] New Publication-humpback whale blubber lipids and fatty acids

Courtney Waugh c.waugh at uq.edu.au
Wed Jan 16 14:50:29 PST 2013

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce a new publication on 'lipid and fatty acid profiles of migrating Southern Hemisphere humpback whales' in Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Citation: Waugh CA, Nichols PD, Noad MC, Bengtson Nash S (2012) Lipid and fatty acid profiles of migrating Southern Hemisphere humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 471:271-281


The lipid and fatty acid (FA) composition of the outer blubber layer was characterized in 46 east Australian migrating humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae. Samples were obtained at 2 time points of the annual migration, which occurs between Antarctic feeding grounds and low-latitude breeding grounds and is associated with a prolonged period of fasting. Blubber lipid composition was dominated by triacylglycerols in all individuals, and the FA profiles of both migration cohorts and sexes were dominated by monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Results indicate that males primarily mobilise polyunsaturated fatty acids in response to migration and fasting, favouring the most readily utilisable FA as governed by their physicochemical properties. In comparison, females appear to initially mobilise short-chain (<18 carbons) MUFA stores, potentially to attend to dependent calves’ thermoregulatory needs. Feeding ecology investigations suggested that humpback whales have a species-specific FA composition of their blubber, including a detectable influence of their diet. This study provides the first insight into lipid and FA profiles of Southern Hemisphere humpback whales. A comprehensive understanding of FA dynamics, especially during times of energy deficit, is essential for understanding the nutritional status of Southern Hemisphere humpback whales and thereby the risks posed by growing environmental threats including toxic and persistent lipophilic pollutants.


Courtney Waugh

Courtney Waugh | PhD Student  |  National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology  | School of Medicine  |  The University of Queensland  |  39 Kessels Road, Coopers Plains, Brisbane, QLD 4018  |  Phone:  +61479 075 536

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