Coordinated spawning of marine animals releases millions of planktonic eggs into the environment, known as egg boons. Eggs are rich in essential fatty acids and may be an important lipid subsidy to egg consumers. Our aim was to validate the application of fatty acid and stable isotope tracers of egg consumption to potential egg consumers and to confirm egg consumption by the selected species. We conducted feeding experiments with ctenophores, crustaceans and fishes. We fed these animals a common diet of Artemia or a commercial feed (Otohime) and simulated egg boons for half of them by intermittently supplementing the common diet with red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) eggs for 10–94 days. Controls did not receive eggs. Fatty acid profiles of consumers fed eggs were significantly different from those of controls 24 h after the last egg-feeding event. Consumers took on fatty acid characteristics of eggs. In fishes and ctenophores, fatty acid markers of egg consumption did not persist 2–5 days after the last egg-feeding event, but markers of egg consumption persisted in crustaceans for at least 5–10 days. Additionally, consumption of eggs, which had high values of δ15N, led to δ15N enrichment in crustaceans and a fish. We conclude that fatty acids and nitrogen stable isotope can be used as biomarkers of recent egg consumption in marine animals, validating their use for assessing exploitation of egg boons in nature.

You do not currently have access to this content.