Published In


Document Type


Publication Date



Fatty Acids -- Isotopes, Food Webs


Tracing the flow of dietary energy sources, especially in systems with a high degree of omnivory, is an ongoing challenge in ecology. In aquatic systems, one of the persistent challenges is in differentiating between autochthonous and allochthonous energy sources to top consumers. Bulk carbon stable isotope values of aquatic and terrestrial prey often overlap, making it difficult to delineate dietary energy pathways in food webs with high allochthonous prey subsidies, such as in many northern temperate waterbodies. We conducted a feeding experiment to explore how fatty acid stable isotopes may overcome the challenge of partitioning autochthonous and allochthonous energy pathways in aquatic consumers. We fed hatchery‐reared Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus) diets of either benthic invertebrates, terrestrial earthworms, or a mixture of both. We then compared how the stable carbon isotopes of fatty acids (δ13CFA) distinguished between diet items and respective treatments in S. alpinus liver and muscle tissues, relative to bulk stable isotopes and fatty acid profiles. Although a high degree of variability of fatty acid stable carbon isotope values was present in all three measures, our results suggest that the ability of this method to overcome the challenges of bulk stable isotopes may be overstated. Finally, our study highlights the importance of further experimental investigation, and consideration of physiological and biochemical processes when employing this emerging method.


© 2021 The Authors.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Locate the Document




Persistent Identifier