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Chemical composition of antarctic zooplankton during austral fall and winter

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Water level, ash content, proximate (protein, lipid, carbohydrate and chitin) and elemental (carbon and nitrogen) composition were analyzed in twentythree species of Antarctic Zooplankton collected during the austral fall (1986) and winter (1988) from the Scotia/Weddell Sea region. Extremes in water level, ash content and organic components were typified by copepods and gelatinous forms. Ostracods and polychaetes were generally similar in composition to copepods, being only slightly higher in water level and ash content. Chaetognaths exhibited a composition intermediate in character with some components similar in value to that shown by crustaceans (i.e. protein) while other components were more in the range of values seen in gelatinous forms (i.e. water level and ash content). Protein was the major proximate component and measured values (as % Afdw) were fairly uniform among non-gelatinous species (x=33.9±6.9). Lipid levels were variable, with high values (>30% AFDW) only found for the copepods Calanoides acutus, Calanus propinquus and Euchaeta antarctica. Carbohydrate values were low in all species examined. Chitin was measured in crustacean species only. With the exception of C. acutus (x=2.5% AFDW chitin), values were similar among species with mean values being slightly higher in fall (x=11.8±2.5) than in winter (x=6.7±1.8). Among non-gelatinous species, the ratio of carbon to nitrogen was positively correlated with the lipid to protein ratio, underscoring the compositional association between elemental and proximate components in these groups. In gelatinous species, the relationship between carbon:nitrogen and lipid:protein was inconsistent and less pronounced. Caloric content was estimated from recovered organic matter for nongelatinous species. As a function of wet weight and dry weight, values reflected differences in water level and ash content among individual species. As a function of ashfree dry weight, values were similar among all species (x=3.6±0.9 kcal/g).

Seasonal comparisons were possible for 12 of the 23 species. Among crustaceans, changes in water level and organic components were variable reflecting dissimilar trophic, reproductive or ecological habits among different species. Essentially no change in composition between fall and winter was observed for diapause species (e.g. Calanoides acutus and Rhincalanus gigas) as well as for omnivorous/ carnivorous species (e.g. Gaetanus tenuispinus). Conversely, large compositional changes were evident for Calanus propinquus, a small-particle grazer that relies heavily on lipid reserves. Chaetognaths and some gelatinous species exhibited a considerable decrease in ash content from fall to winter which, for most cases, was mirrored by some degree of increase in lipid level. At present, however, scant data are available to help explain the observed patterns of compositional change within non-crustacean species.

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Donnelly, J., Torres, J.J., Hopkins, T.L. et al. Chemical composition of antarctic zooplankton during austral fall and winter. Polar Biol 14, 171–183 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00240522

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  • Water Level
  • Chitin
  • Lipid Level
  • Polychaete
  • Organic Component