Fatty acid content of eggs determines antipredator performance of fish larvae

Lee A. Fuiman, Alfredo Fernandez Ojanguren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Recent work has suggested that provisioning of eggs with certain critical nutrients could be a more meaningful measure of maternal investment and correlate of offspring fitness than traditional measures of egg size. The aim of our study was to assess variability in egg and larva quality and to identify connections between them and the implications for larval survival. Egg size, proximate composition, and fatty acid composition were measured for 40 batches of eggs from 8 captive pairs of red drum (Osteichthyes: Sciaenops ocellatus). We reared larvae from these batches of eggs to a common size (10 mm total length, 2-3 weeks posthatching) and assessed routine activity and escape response performance of 671 individuals. Egg fatty acid composition varied more than egg size or proximate composition. Concentrations of certain long chain, highly unsaturated essential fatty acids (e.g., arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) were the only egg traits that were significantly related to larva quality (measured as escape performance). Reduced escape performance of larvae from eggs with low fatty acid concentrations was not compensated by 3 weeks of feeding on a diet enriched with fatty acids, suggesting irreversible developmental effects. Evidence that egg quality can change quickly in response to changes in maternal diet suggests that offspring survival may be determined in part by availability of nutrient-rich prey to pre-spawning adults. Migrations, regime shifts, and exploitation of marine communities could operate through this channel to influence recruitment in fish populations. Our findings underscore the importance of non-genetic maternal contributions to egg quality and the linkage between environmental conditions experienced by adult females and offspring fitness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-165
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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