Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada.
Variation in blubber fatty acid composition among marine mammals in the Canadian Arctic
Article first published online: 8 NOV 2007
2007 by the Society for Marine Mammalogy
Marine Mammal Science
Volume 24, Issue 1, pages 91–111, January 2008
How to Cite
Thiemann, G. W., Iverson, S. J. and Stirling, I. (2008), Variation in blubber fatty acid composition among marine mammals in the Canadian Arctic. Marine Mammal Science, 24: 91–111. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00165.x
- Issue published online: 8 NOV 2007
- Article first published online: 8 NOV 2007
- Received: 6 February 2007Accepted: 31 July 2007
- marine mammal;
- fatty acid;
The composition of predator adipose stores can provide important insights into foraging patterns and the ecological relationships among species. We determined the fatty acid (FA) composition of 843 blubber samples from 80 bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), 33 harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), 239 harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus), 32 hooded seals (Cystophora cristata), 281 ringed seals (Phoca hispida), 53 walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus), 105 beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), and 20 narwhals (Monodon monoceros) across the Canadian Arctic to examine patterns of variability among and within species. FA signatures accurately distinguished phocid seals, walruses, and whales. Belugas and narwhals had the most similar FA signatures of any two species, suggesting substantial overlap in their diets, especially in the narwhal-wintering area off eastern Baffin Island. Among phocid seals, harp and hooded seals had the most similar FA signatures. Bearded seals were most similar to walruses, which was consistent with the benthic feeding habits of both species. Within species, geographic differences in FA signatures were found over both large (>4,000 km) and small (<100 km) spatial scales. Overall, within-species differences were smaller than among-species differences. In general, FA signature patterns were consistent with previous studies of the ecology and diets of arctic marine mammals.