Lipid class and fatty acid content of the Leptocephalus larva of tropical eels

D. Deibel, C.C. Parrish, P. Grønkjær, Peter Munk, Torkel Gissel Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The leptocephalus larva of eels distinguishes the elopomorph fishes from all other bony fishes. The leptocephalus is long lived and increases in size primarily
through the synthesis and deposition of glycosaminoglycans. Energy stored during the larval stage, in the form of glycosaminoglycan and lipids, is required to fuel migration, metamorphosis and metabolism of the subsequent glass eel
stage. Despite the importance of energy storage by leptocephali for survival and recruitment, their diet, condition and lipid content and composition is essentially unknown. To gain further insight into energy storage and condition of
leptocephali, we determined the lipid class and fatty acid concentration of larvae collected on a cross-shelf transect off Broome, northwestern Australia. The total lipid concentration of two families and four sub-families of leptocephali
ranged from 2.7 to 7.0 mg g wet weight-1, at the low end of the few published values. Phospholipid and triacylglycerol made up ca. 63 % of the total lipid pool. The triacylglycerol:sterol ratio, an index of nutritional condition, ranged from 0.9 to 3.7, indicating that the leptocephali were in good condition. The predominant fatty acids were 16:0 (23 mol%), 22:6n-3 (docosahexaenoic acid, DHA,
16 mol%), 18:0 (8.2 mol%), 20:5n-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, 6.7 mol%), 18:1n-9 (6.4 mol%) and 16:1n-7 (6.3 mol%). The DHA:EPA ratio ranged from 2.4 to 2.9, sufficient for normal growth and development of fish larvae
generally. The leptocephali had proportions of bacterial markers[4.4 %, consistent with the possibility that they consume appendicularian houses or other marine snow that is bacteria rich
Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)623-634
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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