[MARMAM] New Paper: Age group differences in blubber fatty acid profiles in northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris)

Aaron Kirkpatrick aaron.w.kirkpatrick at gmail.com
Wed Aug 24 08:48:50 PDT 2022

Dear MARMAM community,

My coauthors and I are excited to share our new publication, "Age group
differences in blubber fatty acid profiles in northern elephant seals

Kirkpatrick AW, Crocker DE, Kanatous SB, Smith KJ, Kienle SS and Trumble SJ
(2022) Age group differences in blubber fatty acid profiles in northern
elephant seals (*Mirounga angustirostris*). Front. Mar. Sci. 9:942711. doi:
10.3389/fmars.2022.942711 <https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2022.942711>

The paper is open access and can be found here:

Northern elephant seals (*Mirounga angustirostris*), like many marine
mammals, rely on internal lipid stores, specifically fatty acids (FAs)
stored in the blubber layer, to meet metabolic needs. The energetic demands
of northern elephant seals vary with ontogeny, as each life-history stage
experiences different metabolic requirements due to development, growth,
and breeding. To date, no comprehensive study has reported on changes in
blubber FA profiles across northern elephant seal age groups or sex.
Therefore, our objective was to determine how blubber FAs differ across
ontogeny and sex in northern elephant seals. As a sexually dimorphic
mammal, northern elephant seals go through sex-specific ontogenetic changes
in morphology and physiology; we hypothesized that these changes would be
reflected in their FAs profiles. To determine this, FAs profiles were
compared from full blubber cores collected from 79 northern elephant seals
across four age groups. We provide the first evidence of blubber fatty
acids differing across ontogeny as NES transition from young, developing
seals to mature fully developed adults. However, we did not find
differences in blubber FAs profiles between the sexes. Monounsaturated
fatty acids (MUFAs) are found in the highest proportions across all NES age
classes and sexes, followed by SFAs and PUFAs; this highlights the
important role MUFAs play in maintaining fluidity of the blubber layer and
in thermoregulation. The individual FAs with the highest concentrations
(C16:1, C18:1n9 and C16:0) in northern elephant seal blubber are similar to
those in other marine mammals. Weaned pup FAs profiles were significantly
different from all other age classes; adults and juveniles also showed
age-specific differences. Specifically, weaned pups had the highest
proportions of SFAs and the lowest proportions of PUFA, suggesting use of
PUFAs to aid development. Each life history stage of NES is interconnected
to previous and future stages, making FA accumulation, mobilization, and
storage an important process throughout an individual’s life. Further, any
changes to this process can have cascading consequences throughout ontogeny
in this species. Future monitoring of the FA composition of blubber across
age classes could potentially indicate the costs of different environmental
changes on blubber storage in NES.

Please feel free to contact me at aaron.w.kirkpatrick at gmail.com with any

*Aaron W. Kirkpatrick*
PhD Candidate
Baylor University
US-UK Fulbright Alumnus
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