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PLoS One. 2015 Jul 2;10(7):e0131598. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131598. eCollection 2015.

Spatial Patterns and Temperature Predictions of Tuna Fatty Acids: Tracing Essential Nutrients and Changes in Primary Producers.

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CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Department of Ocean Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.
CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.
CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; CSIRO Food, Nutrition and Bioproducts Flagship, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.


Fatty acids are among the least understood nutrients in marine environments, despite their profile as key energy components of food webs and that they are essential to all life forms. Presented here is a novel approach to predict the spatial-temporal distributions of fatty acids in marine resources using generalized additive mixed models. Fatty acid tracers (FAT) of key primary producers, nutritional condition indices and concentrations of two essential long-chain (≥C20) omega-3 fatty acids (EFA) measured in muscle of albacore tuna, Thunnus alalunga, sampled in the south-west Pacific Ocean were response variables. Predictive variables were: location, time, sea surface temperature (SST) and chlorophyll-a (Chla), and phytoplankton biomass at time of catch and curved fork length. The best model fit for all fatty acid parameters included fish length and SST. The first oceanographic contour maps of EFA and FAT (FATscapes) were produced and demonstrated clear geographical gradients in the study region. Predicted changes in all fatty acid parameters reflected shifts in the size-structure of dominant primary producers. Model projections show that the supply and availability of EFA are likely to be negatively affected by increases in SST especially in temperate waters where a 12% reduction in both total fatty acid content and EFA proportions are predicted. Such changes will have large implications for the availability of energy and associated health benefits to high-order consumers. Results convey new concerns on impacts of projected climate change on fish-derived EFA in marine systems.

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