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Lipids. 2000 May;35(5):533-41.

Molecular analysis of intact preen waxes of Calidris canutus (Aves: Scolopacidae) by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

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  • 1Department of Marine Biogeochemistry and Toxicology, Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), Texel.


The intact preen wax esters of the red knot Calidris canutus were studied with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and GC/MS/MS. In this latter technique, transitions from the molecular ion to fragment ions representing the fatty acid moiety of the wax esters were measured, providing additional resolution to the analysis of wax esters. The C21-C32 wax esters are composed of complex mixtures of hundreds of individual isomers. The odd carbon-numbered wax esters are predominantly composed of even carbon-numbered n-alcohols (C14, C16, and C18) esterified predominantly with odd carbon-numbered 2-methyl fatty acids (C7, C9, C11, and C13), resulting in relatively simple distributions. The even carbon-numbered wax esters show a far more complex distribution due to a number of factors: (i) Their n-alcohol moieties are not dominated by even carbon-numbered n-alcohols esterified with odd carbon-numbered 2-methyl fatty acids, but odd and even carbon-numbered n-alcohols participate in approximately equal amounts; (ii) odd carbon-numbered methyl-branched alcohols participate abundantly in these wax ester clusters; and (iii) with increasing molecular weight, various isomers of the 2,6-, 2,8-, and 2,10-dimethyl branched fatty acids also participate in the even carbon-numbered wax esters. The data demonstrate that there is a clear biosynthetic control on the wax ester composition although the reasons for the complex chemistry of the waxes are not yet understood.

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